Flu in US widespread, starting to ease: CDC
By Julie Steenhuysen ,ReutersCHICAGO -- Flu remains widespread in the United States and 29 children have died of complications from it, but there are signs the epidemic is easing, U.S. health officials said on Friday.
January 20, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
Forty-eight states reported widespread influenza infections last week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden described this year as a “worse than average season, particularly for the elderly.”
“Many parts of the country are still seeing high — and in some parts — increasing levels of activity while overall activity is beginning to go down,” Frieden said in a teleconference.
This year's flu season has reached the midpoint, which means new cases of flu are beginning to fall, but Frieden said he expects both the number and rates of hospitalization and death to rise further as the flu epidemic progresses.
Thousands of people die every year from flu, but the elderly generally are the hardest hit, with 90 percent of all flu deaths occurring in people over age 65.
The CDC does not keep track of all flu-related deaths in adults, but during the second week of January, 8.3 percent of deaths reported to its 122 Cities Mortality Reporting System were due to pneumonia and influenza. That is up from 7.3 percent reported the previous week and exceeds the epidemic threshold of 7.2 percent.
In the first two weeks of January, nine children died of complications from the flu, bringing the death toll of children from this year's flu season to 29, the CDC reported.
That compares with a total of 34 child deaths for the entire 2011-2012 flu season, an especially mild one, and 282 during the severe 2009-2010 season.
Last week, the percentage of visits to healthcare providers for flu-like illness fell to 4.6 percent, down from a revised 4.8 percent in the prior week, the CDC said. By comparison, in the 2009 H1N1 “swine” flu pandemic, 7.7 percent of visits were for flu-like illness.