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    U.S. Flu Cases Continue to Climb

    Southwestern states hardest hit, but infections still not at epidemic levels, CDC says

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    The H1N1 strain accounts for more than half of the influenza virus specimens that have been tested this season, the CDC said.

    "H1N1 viruses continue to predominate across the country," CDC spokeswoman Erin Burns said. "Anyone aged 6 months and older who has not gotten a flu vaccine yet this season should get one now. All flu vaccines are designed to protect against H1N1 viruses."

    The U.S. Southwest -- Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas -- is the region hardest hit by the flu this season. This week, nearly 9 percent of all doctor's office visits in that region were due to flu-like symptoms, outstripping the illness rates of all other parts of the country.

    According to the CDC, flu activity by state breaks down as follows:

    • Widespread activity in 35 states -- Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
    • Regional activity in 12 states -- Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
    • Local activity in two states -- Delaware and Vermont.

    Only one state, Hawaii, remains largely flu-free.

    Jhung and Spogen recommend that everyone get a flu shot, especially people between 18 and 64.

    People also need to be sure to practice good hygiene by washing their hands often, covering their cough or sneeze, and staying home from school or work when sick, Spogen said.

    "People kind of lose sight of influenza being like any other virus," he said. "The best thing you can do is practice the kind of hygiene we always recommend."

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