"Our numbers, so far, are now increasing every week", Christian County Health Department Director Cindy Bilyeu said. "It seems to be a little more intense this year".
The number of cases already is similar to the 2009 and 2010 flu seasons that killed many children in a pandemic. A lot of them had underlying conditions such as heart, lung or immune system problems.
In addition, the medical community faces significant challenges in upcoming flu seasons, according to the expert panel at the forum.
"I might be scared of the flu, but I don't want to sacrifice fashion", she said.
This year's strain has been more severe in adults 65 and older and people under the age of 25, Mihalik said.
Should I take an antiviral drug like Tamiflu?
Students who are diagnosed with the flu are encouraged to stay in their dorm rooms or go home.
Since the fourth week of January, flu resulted in the deaths of another 16 children, bringing the total pediatric deaths to at least 53 this season.
In Suffolk, there have been over 3,700 cases of the flu this season, with 782 new cases reported last week.
167 deaths were reported statewide as of last week. Children who are Medicaid-enrolled or eligible, or enrolled in Child Health Plus can also get the vaccine free of cost, and the measure also covers Native American or Alaska-native children.
The Maryland Department of Health detected its first laboratory-confirmed cases of seasonal influenza in November.
Another 10 children were reported to have died of the flu in the week ending February 3, bringing the total infant mortality so far this season to 63, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC's acting director, told reporters.
How can someone who got the flu shot still get the flu? Doctors were anxious about young children carrying the disease into the hospital without even knowing it.
The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). However, children and people with weakened immune systems can infect others for longer periods of time, especially if they still have symptoms. And though children with preexisting medical conditions are known to be at higher risk for flu complications, the team found that half were previously healthy.
Unfortunately, the flu season probably won't start winding down anytime soon, Schuchat added.
"The vaccine is not as good of a match for that particular strain this year, so the virus can mutate and it can tend to have the vaccine be less effective and therefore more flu gets spread around", Rubin said. "The cases we've seen this year are significantly higher than our numbers in the two to three previous years".
Not all of this year's flu data has been collected, he said, but early estimates of effectiveness for this year's strain of influenza A suggests it sits around 10 to 20 per cent and 55 per cent for influenza B.
This death count is expected to rise as flu season continues.