At least 20 children are among the thousands of Americans to die from the flu this season. It's been one of the worst in years as hospitalizations from the outbreak have doubled in just the last week.
Grief counselors are on hand at a New Canaan, Connecticut elementary school, after a fourth-grader died last week from the flu.
Nico Mallozzi's hockey team was playing in a championship tournament in New York when he complained of feeling sick. He was taken to the hospital where he died Sunday, before he was able to be taken home.
"Nico was a very lively, vibrant, spirited kid," New Canaan Superintendent Dr. Bryan Luizzi told WFSB, "When a young student passes away like this, unexpectedly, it's very, very tough."
Similarly, a San Jose, California mother of three described as "full of life," died suddenly from the flu.
Forty-year-old Katie Oxley Thomas enjoyed hiking and wake-boarding but succumbed to the flu within days of feeling sick.
"From the time I took her to the hospital to the time she passed was about 18 hours," her boyfriend Jim Collins told KNTV, "It's scary how fast it happens and it doesn't matter how old you are. She was very healthy."
This season an estimated 80 percent of flu victims are contracting the H3N2 strain of the virus. Nicknamed "the hospitalizer," this strain is particularly virulent, causing high numbers of hospitalizations and deaths compared to other dominant strains from previous flu seasons.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the rate of flu hospitalizations nearly doubled in just one week. An estimated 23 people out of every 100,000 were hospitalized for the flu during the week ending January 6th, compared to half that number the week before.
The CDC tweeted 49 states, all except Hawaii, are currently experiencing "widespread" outbreaks, adding the flu shot is the best way to prevent getting the flu.
Widespread #flu activity reported in 49 US states. #Flu vaccination is the best tool to prevent flu, but antivirals are the most important tool for flu treatment. Latest flu activity update: https://t.co/To4m34xyeh pic.twitter.com/WiCxPsXIoC
— CDC Flu (@CDCFlu) January 16, 2018
The CDC says it's not too late to get the flu shot, but adds it can take up to two weeks to build up antibodies against the flu. Even after that, it's estimated to be only about 30 percent effective. Most flu vaccines are only up to about 65 percent effective in a good year. However, medical experts say the flu shot is still the best protection against the flu and even if a person contracts the virus, having gotten the flu shot minimizes the duration and severity of the illness.
The CDC also says anti-viral medications are the best way to treat the flu, adding the sooner they are administered after experiencing symptoms, the better.