Tuesday, December 30, 2014

With 15 children dead, CDC declares flu epidemic

Liz Neporent in ABC News via Good Morning America: Fifteen children have died from complications of the flu so far this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted, as it officially declared the illness an epidemic. The number of states reporting a high amount of “influenza-like” illness activity has increased from 13 to 22 since last week’s report from the agency, with outbreaks in every region of the country.

Hospitalizations also climbed this week with seniors and kids younger than 4 accounting for the highest rate of hospitalizations. At least six Tennessee children have died from the flu this year, the state's Department of Health reported. Tennessee is under the widespread outbreak category, as of Monday, according to the CDC. So far, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has seen 442 children with the flu just this month.

While this year’s strain of the virus is especially severe, ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said, flu can always be deadly for children, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system. “Every year about a hundred children die from the flu,” he said today on “Good Morning America.”

About 90 percent of flu cases so far this year have been the H3N2 subtype, the CDC reported. Flu strains are named for molecule types surrounding the outside of the virus particle, said Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious diseases physician with the Mayo Clinic and a member of the Mayo vaccine research group....

An influenza virus particle, from the CDC

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