FRIDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Forty-eight states are now reporting widespread flu activity, up from 47 last week, and the virus is proving particularly dangerous for the elderly, U.S. health officials reported Friday.
In addition, the number of children who have died from the flu continues to rise. So far 29 children have died, nine more than was reported last week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While there's no system to report adult deaths from flu, the CDC said Friday that 8.3 percent of all deaths in 122 cities were caused by pneumonia and flu. This is higher than the 7.2 percent the agency uses to define as the threshold for a flu epidemic.
"We are in the middle of flu season, about halfway through, and it's shaping up to be a worse-than-average season and a bad season, particularly, for the elderly," CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said during a Friday news conference.
He said that many parts of the country are still seeing high -- and in some cases increasing -- levels of activity from the H3N2 form of the flu virus, while in other regions rates of infection are starting to fall.
But the flu is taking a disproportionate toll on seniors, Frieden said.
"Last week hospitalization rates increased sharply in people 65 and over, and this week hospitalization rates for people 65 and over increased sharply again -- to 82 per 100,000, which is really quite a high rate," he said. "In general, we estimate that about 90 percent of flu-related deaths are in people 65 and older."
The 29 pediatric deaths so far compare to 153 deaths reported during the 2003-2004 season, which was another H3N2 season. "But we are only in the middle of the season," Frieden noted, adding that last year 122 children died from the flu.
An estimated 36,000 people die from the flu and its complications in a typical season, accordin
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