- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the resignation of its director will not disrupt efforts to combat a severe flu season that’s killed more than 50 children and is on pace to break hospitalization records.

Brenda Fitzgerald, who took the helm in July, resigned Wednesday amid reports she added a tobacco company to her stock portfolio. Already, financial conflicts of interest had forced her to recuse herself from a swath of agency business.

“Despite recent leadership changes, CDC remains committed to our 24-7 mission to protect the health, safety and security of Americans,” said acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat. “And that mission will not falter.”

The CDC is battling a particularly dreadful flu season, driven in large part by a H3N2 strain that’s been resistant to this year’s vaccine. People older than 65 and younger than 5 are at the most risk.

Officials recorded 16 more pediatric deaths from flu last week, meaning this flu season has killed a total of 53 children.

Beyond H3N2, the H1N1 and “influenza B” strains are taking a toll.

“All of the different types of influenza are causing these deaths,” said Dan Jernigan, director of the influenza division at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

CDC said the number of people landing in the hospital is on pace to exceed an awful 2014-2015 season, when it recorded 710,000 hospitalizations.

On the bright side, the CDC said flu activity in the West receded for the second week in a row.

Yet 48 states are still reporting widespread flu in a brutal season that will probably last for several more weeks.

“We continue to recommend the flu vaccine, even though we know most flu vaccines have low effectiveness against H3N2 viruses,” Dr. Schuchat said.

Dr. Schuchat said people 65 and older should also get a pneumococcal vaccine to protect against secondary infections exacerbated by the flu.

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