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Flu Continues to Wane, but Deaths Still Epidemic

Medscape Medical News

Jan. 25, 2012 -- Flu activity continues to fall in the U.S. even as the death toll, which lags behind the infection rate, continues to rise, according to the CDC.

Through the third week of 2013 ending on Jan. 19, the percentage of deaths attributed to flu and pneumonia in 122 cities rose to 9.8% from 8.3% the week before, according to the CDC's latest report on this flu season. This again passes the epidemic threshold for such deaths, which is 7.3%.

So far, 37 of those deaths are children.

Likewise, the number of hospitalizations associated with flu rose from the week before, 18.8 to 22.2 per 100,000 people.

At the same time, flu activity has been slowing. The percentage of doctor visits for flu-like illness -- defined as fever along with a cough or sore throat -- fell to 4.3% from 4.6%. This figure is still far above the figure the CDC uses to consider the start of a flu season, which is 2.2%.

In a telebriefing today, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, predicted that the rate of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths would rise in the coming weeks despite a decline in overall flu activity.

Frieden attributed the seeming conflict to the time gap between when flu first strikes and when the disease sends patients to the hospital, where some eventually die.

More information on the latest developments on the flu season is available at Flu View, a weekly surveillance report from the CDC.

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