A risky U.S. flu season is still striking the elderly and infants, federal health officials warned on Friday, and looks likely to continue for several weeks.
Another 10 children were reported to have died of the flu in the week ending February 3, bringing the total infant mortality so far this season to 63, Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC's acting director, told reporters.
"We may be on track to break some recent records".
"This is a severe flu season, and unfortunately there are no signs that it has peaked yet", said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, MD, FACOG.
Flu activity across the country has reached new highs compared to other recent severe flu seasons, Schuchat said. In the last five years, influenza-like activity in the USA has remained elevated anywhere from 11 to 20 weeks, meaning there could still be several more weeks of increased flu activity.
Last week, 43 states had high patient traffic for the flu, up from 42, the CDC reported.
The State Health Department reported another record level of confirmed flu cases in NY again last week, totaling 15,753.
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Veda Albertson, a 70-year-old retiree in Tampa, was sick for three weeks with high fever and fluid in her lungs.
The rate of flu deaths week-to-week remained similar to the last two weeks. The CDC said there is no evidence of antigenic drift in this year's H3N2 strain, and the explanation for this year's particularly high case numbers is still unknown. This year's dominant strain of influenza A H3N2, does not appear to be different than one that has been circulating in previous seasons but it is being closely studied by virologists for any clues as to why it might be more virulent, Schuchat said.
Lab testing data shows a classic pattern of A strains of influenza causing the most infections, but B strains gradually emerging later in the season.
The rate of flu activity is similar to the rate in 2009, which was the last flu pandemic, "though that doesn't mean we're having a pandemic", Schuchat said.
In past severe years, Schuchat said roughly 34 million Americans contracted the flu.
A viruses, often linked to more serious flu illness, continue to dominate. The exceptions are those at high risk: the very young, the very old, pregnant women, and people with pre-existing medical conditions. It first hit that spring, at the tail end of the winter season, but doctor visits hit their height in late October during a second wave.