New data shows 167 Hoosiers have died from flu this season

New data shows 167 Hoosiers have died from flu this season

The CDC began tracking hospitalizations in 2010. That figure includes the death of an 8-year-old girl in Queens who died earlier this week, one day after being diagnosed with the flu.

Outpatient visits to hospitals and emergency departments by patients with influenza-like illness have now reached levels not seen since the 2009 season, Schuchat said. And it surpasses every winter flu season since 2003, when the government changed the way it measures flu.

Flu-related hospitalizations also increased to about 60 out of every 100,000 people. But its long-lasting intensity has surprised experts, who are still sorting out why it's been so bad.

Flu activity is still on the rise in the USA, government officials said Friday, with several weeks left to go in the flu season.

"Flu is incredibly hard to predict and we don't know if we've hit the peak yet", Schuchat said in a call with reporters. Almost all states are still reporting widespread flu activity, with less severe reports only coming from OR and Hawaii. Nordlund said. Anytime H3N2 strains are dominant, as they are now, "we tend to see more severe disease more hospitalizations, more deaths".

"We recognize that this issue is personal to so many families and that there is a lot of fear and alarm", Schuchat said.

Another measure is the percentage of deaths attributed to flu or pneumonia, which often accompanies influenza. Over the next few weeks it would make sense to see more flu-related deaths, as those potential deaths will likely come from current influenza-related hospitalizations, CDC researchers said.

But the viral strain causing the most illness this year, H3N2, is known to cause especially severe illness and to be hard to control with vaccination.

However, the vaccine does help those who get the shot build stronger immunity against the B strain, Schuchat said, citing the Canadian research. Scientists are studying circulating viruses to see if anything unusual is going on, Schuchat said.

"This season is a wake-up call about how severe influenza can be and how we can never let our guard down", she said.

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