CHICAGO - The Centers for Disease Control said another 16 children have died from the flu, bringing the number of flu-associated deaths in kids to 53 so far this season.
A lot of these cases are normal, healthy children.
The CDC said the flu is one of the biggest health threats in America, with about one in 14 patients who set foot in an urgent care clinic or doctor's office showing flu symptoms.
"I do think we're only seeing the start of it here in Chicago," said Dr. Mike Kupowski, Michigan Avenue Immediate Care.
They're calling the spread of this season's dominant flu strain complex and difficult to predict.
In just the last week, the CDC has seen an increase in flu-like activity and more flu-associated deaths in kids and adults.
The latest tracking data is that flu activity is still high and widespread across the country and it's expected to continue to increase over the next several weeks.
Those pediatric deaths, 16 this week and 53 overall, are especially concerning.
"The last time we had this many per week was in 2014-15. For this season, only around 20 percent of these pediatric deaths had been vaccinated. And half of these children were otherwise healthy," said Dr. Dan Jernigan, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
"Warning signs of things taking a turn for the worse would be difficulty breathing, a persistent or spike in the fever, being lethargic or difficult to wake up. Those are scary signs for a parent and a reason to call for the doctor," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC.
As for the mortality rate in adults, the CDC takes a look at the percentage of death certificates in America where influenza is listed as a cause of death. It is up to 9.7 percent for this season.
The CDC expects that number may reach or exceed highs from previous years where flu-related deaths peaked.
BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL IN LINCOLN PARK CLOSED FRIDAY
CDC: 16 children died from flu this week, 53 so far this season
Parents and people who work near the British International School in the Lincoln Park neighborhood said the school is closed due to the flu. The school said it's because of a stomach virus.
But the biggest nightmare for parents today is seeing the number of children killed by flu continue to rise.
Parents like Dwight and Clarissa Marroquin are trying to keep their kids occupied as flu season gets even worse.
"You don't think it could be an epidemic the way things are now. It's scary. You take things a little more serious than you did in the past," Dwight Marroquin said.
The newest flu numbers from the CDC show 16 more kids killed by flu in the past week bringing the total this season to a heartbreaking 53.
"I'm constantly making them wash their hands and don't touch things. Especially when we go to the supermarket. You think you're too paranoid, but can you really be too paranoid when it comes to their lives? You know?" Clarissa Marroquin said.
Cook County Health System Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Sharon Welbel said this time of year you have to be extra careful with your kids.
"So it's always a balance of wanting one's child to have a social life and do regular activities but during these peak times of the season it is important to think about what can be particularly high risk areas," Welbel said.
Think twice about what your kids are touching in public places. Most importantly, "children that are vaccinated against flu were significantly less likely to die from a flu related illness. So it's really important to get vaccinated," Welbel added.
"It's really scary. I mean it's really unbelievable that something like the flu can have kids and adults pass away from such a simple. You think we're going to get over it in a weekend, you know?" said mother Blanca Boyas.
Blanca Boyas and her friends are all trying to keep their kids healthy on a cold Chicago day as flu season gets even worse.
"I got worried one of my friends got caught with the flu. One of my friends has been absent for three days...and I get worried that he actually may have come down with the flu," said student Versailles Marroquin.
The newest flu numbers from the CDC show 16 more kids killed by flu in the past week, bringing the total this season to a heartbreaking 53.
"It's a particularly bad season in terms of numbers. We here are also seeing twice as many cases as we saw last year and the season isn't over yet," said Welbel.
"It's scarier now because you don't know from one minute to the next how bad it could get," said mother Clarissa Marroquin.
But as you try to balance your child's social life this time of year, keep in mind...
"Children aren't necessarily very good about cleaning their hands or containing their secretions, so avoiding those areas is a good idea. Definitely keeping one's child at home while they're sick, rather than bringing them to these public places," said Welbel.
Doctors say it is not too late to get that vaccine as we are still months away from the end of flu season. As far as the British International School here, it is set to be reopened on Monday.
The influenza vaccine isn't especially effective against this season's dominant strain, but it can help to lessen the symptoms if you contract the virus. Plus, it can still prevent other flu viruses that are circulating.
Already sick and struggling to fill a prescription for antiviral meds? The drugs are still available, but it may be necessary to call around to a few pharmacies.