Flu epidemic spreads in U.S.: report

February 18, 2011 11:16 am 

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 18 — The flu season has reached an epidemic level in the United States, circulating in all 50 states and widespread in 37, HealthDay News reported on Thursday.

Pediatric deaths from flu tripled in the past month, jumping from 10 early in January to 30 by February 5, the report said, quoting statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Outpatient doctor visits because of flu increased steadily from January to February, according to the report.

While it's too early for exact numbers, the flu, which usually peaks in February, contributed to eight percent of adult deaths in 122 cities, the report said.

"We still have a lot of flu out there," said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. "We saw activity really start to pick up in December, and it has continued through January into February, which is normal," he said.

Skinner stressed that it's not too late to get a flu shot. "Flu activity is going to continue into March," he was quoted as saying. "There is plenty of vaccine out there, and we encourage vaccination throughout the season."

Of the three confirmed flu viruses — influenza A(H1N1), influenza A H3N2 and influenza B — the H3N2 strain has predominated, but all three are circulating, according to the report.

"This year we are seeing a very typical flu season," noted one expert, Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University, New York City. "The time is right on target. This is when you see the peak of flu season."

He added that "the number of hospitalizations and deaths are right on course for a typical flu season."

Each year about 200,000 Americans are hospitalized and 37,000 will die from flu, Siegel said. (PNA/Xinhua)

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