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CDC warns flu season may not have peaked

09 February 2018

In previous severe flu seasons - not counting pandemics caused by newly mutated viruses - the CDC estimates that up to 56,000 people have died in a single year. That figure includes the death of an 8-year-old girl in Queens who died earlier this week, one day after being diagnosed with the flu.

Flu infection rates are rising higher than those in any year since 2009, when the swine flu pandemic hit the country, according to the CDC. And it surpasses every winter flu season since 2003, when the government changed the way it measures flu.

That's higher than last week, when the rate was 51 per every 100,000, and also higher than during the fifth week of the 2014-15 season, which recorded about 44 people hospitalized per 100,000.

The dominant flu strain this season, influenza A (H3N2), is especially potent, linked with severe disease and death, particularly among children and the elderly.

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"Flu is incredibly hard to predict and we don't know if we've hit the peak yet", Schuchat said in a call with reporters.

CDC data show 48 of the 50 states reporting high influenza-like illness. "We could still see several more weeks of increased activity".

"There is a lot of fear and alarm about this flu season", Schuchat said.

Most of Indiana's flu-related deaths this season have involved people age 65 and older, but almost 83 percent of the influenza-like illnesses reported this year to the state involve people age 24 and younger. Circulating flu strains this season are a mix of H3N2, H1N1 and B viruses.

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On the subject of vaccines, Schuchat added that the Department of Health and Human Services is "looking at this season's data very carefully" and understands the "need to talk about longer-term approaches to improved flu vaccines". "It makes sense to get vaccinated because it can protect you against the other strain", Schuchat said.

Another measure is the percentage of deaths attributed to flu or pneumonia, which often accompanies influenza.

"This season is a wake-up call about how severe influenza can be and how we can never let our guard down", she said.

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CDC warns flu season may not have peaked