Flu Spreads, Kills 20 Children

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Influenza continued its spread across the country last week, and it’s now killed 20 children, federal health officials reported Friday.

Deaths from flu-like illness and pneumonia are now at epidemic levels – nothing unusual for mid-January, but a reminder that while flu is a regular visitor, it’s also a killer. Flu kills people every year — anywhere between 3,000 and 49,000 a year, depending on the season. At the same time last year, flu had already killed 29 children.

Flu’s now widespread in 40 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. “The highest hospitalization rate is among adults aged 65 years or older, followed by those in age groups 0-4 years and 50-64 years,” CDC reports in its weekly statistic on flu. “However, those aged 18-64 years still account for 61 percent of reported hospitalized cases.”

This might be because the H1N1 strain is the flu type making most people sick this year. This particular strain of H1N1 first popped up in 2009, causing the swine flu pandemic. It hasn’t dominated the circulating mix of flu strains since, so CDC is watching to see if younger adults may be more susceptible. These are the people least likely to have been vaccinated.