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Is there a 'second wave' of the flu coming? What you need to know

As overall flu activity continues to decrease, officials are seeing more cases of a strain that's worse for younger children.

by A. Pawlowski and Shamard Charles M.D. / / Source: TODAY

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Kids are still dying from the flu even as fewer people are getting sick at what appears to be the tail end of this brutal season.

Some media reports are now warning about a “second wave” of the flu, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that’s not quite accurate.

Four more children have died, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths to 137 this flu season, according to the latest update from the CDC released Friday. Overall influenza activity decreased across the country, though it remained high in four states during the week ending March 24: Alaska, South Carolina, Virginia, and Wyoming.

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It’s common to see a second wave of flu in late winter or early spring in the U.S., but that’s not exactly what’s happening now, government experts said.

“I think ‘wave’ is a bit strong — mainly because it makes people think we’ll see a surge or large peak of cases like we saw in January and February,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told NBC News.

The overall flu activity continues to decrease, but influenza B viruses have been more frequently reported in recent weeks, while the proportion of influenza A viruses has declined, Nordlund added.

Infections caused by influenza B can be just as severe as illness associated with influenza A, but influenza B is usually worse for younger children, she noted. It’s not clear why that’s the case.

This year’s vaccine protected 42 percent of people against getting influenza B illness bad enough to go to the doctor.

People who have already been sick with influenza A are still susceptible to picking up the B strain. That's because when you beat one strain of flu, your body will build antibodies to fight it, but they’re useless against different strains of flu.

Since this flu season was so deadly for children, parents should still be on the lookout for these serious symptoms that warrant a trip to the emergency room:

• Fast breathing or trouble breathing

• Bluish skin color

• Not drinking enough fluids

• Not waking up or not interacting

• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

• Flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse cough

• Fever with a rash

Flu symptoms are unpredictable and can be completely different if a person is infected with one strain and then, later, another. It’s important to keep washing your hands and practice good hygiene and remain vigilant about preventing sickness.

The flu vaccine is your best bet to keep the flu at bay or lessen severity of symptoms if you do get sick. It's still not too late to get the shot: The CDC recommends getting the vaccine as long as "flu viruses are circulating."

Dr. Felix Gussone contributed to this report.

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