63 Children Killed as U.S. Flu Outbreak Continues

Flu is now sickening and hospitalizing Americans at rates not seen in nearly a decade, and the season is still getting worse, federal health officials said Friday.

In the latest update, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 10 new child deaths and the highest flu hospitalization rate seen since the agency started keeping comparable records in 2010. It also reported the highest rate of flu-like illnesses since the flu pandemic of 2009.

“We don’t know if we have hit the peak yet,” said Anne Schuchat, acting CDC director. “We could potentially see several more weeks of increased flu activity.”

And while deaths among children — now at 63 kids — and adults have not been extremely high, it is possible they could increase in line with hospitalization rates, she said.

It is not clear why this flu season is so intense and so unusually widespread — still causing wide swaths of misery in 48 states and high levels of illness in 43 of them as of Feb. 3.

But the viral strain causing the most illness this year, H3N2, is known to cause especially severe illness and to be hard to control with vaccination.

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. The vast majority of deaths have been in adults over age 65.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Kim Painter