updated 3/6/2007 9:06:14 AM ET 2007-03-06T14:06:14

Midway through the month when influenza typically peaks, health officials were monitoring four hospitalized Nebraska children, while three North Carolina schools remained closed over widespread symptoms of the illness.

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And in Oklahoma, 400 students were out sick with the flu, though no schools were closed, authorities said.

Still, a federal health official called this season relatively mild so far.

Around the country, at least nine children have died of flu, and six other child deaths have been tentatively linked to flu since Feb. 3, said Curtis Allen, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last year, 47 children under age 18 died from influenza. In 2003-2004, the worst recent flu season, 153 children died.

Three of the ill Nebraska children had severe muscle aches that made it hard for them to stand, similar to symptoms of the 11-year-old who died, Dr. Tom Safranek of Nebraska Health and Human Services said Thursday.

Ahn T. “Anna” Do of Lincoln. Anna died Feb. 10 in Omaha, four days after falling ill, according to her father, Chi Do.

None of the three, ages 6 to 12, were nearly as sick as she had been, Safranek said.

The fourth ill Nebraska child was lethargic and hard to rouse, he said. State officials did not have updated information on their children’s conditions Friday morning, but expected to know more later in the day.

Safranek said the four children did not have any known relation or close geographic proximity to each other or Anna. State officials did not immediately know whether any had been vaccinated.

In North Carolina, the three schools in Hyde County closed Wednesday after at least 20 percent of their total 541 students fell ill, school system spokeswoman Carol Evans said Thursday. The schools won’t reopen until Monday, she said.

The illness was blamed for last week’s death of a 7-year-old girl in Seattle, and an 8-year-old who died there Wednesday had suffered from flulike systems, health authorities there said.

About 36,000 people die from the flu each year in the United States, according to the CDC.

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