FRIDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- While flu activity remains
high across the United States, there are signs that the number of
infections may be leveling off, federal health officials reported
The flu season, which got an early start in November in
southeastern states, appears to be easing a bit in the South,
Southeast, New England and the Midwest regions of the country. But
infections are rising in the Southwest and the Northwest, the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Hospitalizations and deaths -- key indicators of a flu season's
severity -- increased again during the week ending Jan. 19. People
65 and older and young children are being hit especially hard this
Thirty-seven children have died from the flu this season, with
eight deaths reported last week, the CDC said.
There's no system to report adult deaths from flu, but the
agency said the number of deaths remains higher than the threshold
used to declare a flu epidemic.
The predominant strain of circulating flu this season continues
to be influenza A H3N2, which typically poses bigger problems for
young children and the elderly, according to the CDC. But,
predominant strains can vary across states and regions of the
country, the agency noted.
Forty-seven states were reporting widespread flu activity last
week, and two were reporting regional activity, the CDC said.
The 37 pediatric deaths so far compare to 153 deaths reported
during the 2003-04 season, which was another H3N2 season, the
An estimated 36,000 people die from the flu and its
complications in a typical season, according to the CDC. From 1976
to 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States
ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000
Flu season usually peaks in late January or early February, but
by November the flu was already severe and widespread in some parts
of the South and Southeast.
The best defense against the flu remains the flu vaccine and
it's not too late to get vaccinated, the CDC said. The agency
recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get
This year's vaccine appears to be well matched for the
circulating flu strains, the CDC said. A recent report put the
vaccine's effectiveness at 62 percent. No vaccine is 100 percent
effective. But if flu strikes, vaccination often results in milder
illness, the agency said.
People can visit this
government websiteto see where vaccine is available in their
As of Jan. 18, 133.5 million doses of flu vaccine had been
distributed to vaccine providers in the United States for the
Two antiviral medications, Tamiflu and Relenza, can reduce flu
symptoms and the course of the disease. To be effective, however,
they must be started within 48 hours after symptoms appear.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, head and body aches,
and runny nose. People at particular risk for flu and its
complications are pregnant women, those 65 and older and anyone
with a chronic illness. The CDC urges these people to get the flu
vaccine, which is available as an injection or nasal spray and in a
stronger dose for seniors.
For more on flu, visit the
U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
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