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CDC: Influenza Has Hit Epidemic Status in U.S.

Fifteen child deaths reported

TUESDAY, Dec. 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The flu has reached epidemic levels in the United States, with 15 child mortalities so far this season, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

Every state will likely have flu cases within the next few weeks, and more deaths are expected, Michael Jhung, M.D., a medical officer in the CDC's influenza division, told HealthDay. Flu reaches epidemic levels in the United States every year, Jhung said. Whether this flu season will be more severe or milder than previous ones won't be known until April or May, he noted.

The number of children's deaths from flu varies by year, Jhung added. "In some years we see as few as 30, in other years we have seen over 170. To have 15 reported at this point in the season is, unfortunately, not unexpected," he said. The South, Midwest, and Western states have been especially hard hit this flu season. At least six children have died in Tennessee and four in Minnesota, according to published reports. The predominant flu strain this season is the H3N2 virus, the CDC says. This virus is not well-matched to this year's flu vaccine, but what part this mismatch is playing in flu deaths isn't known, Jhung said.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot. It's not too late to get vaccinated, Jhung said. More than one type of flu is circulating, and the vaccine protects against at least three strains of circulating virus, he added.

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