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18 children killed by U.S. influenza outbreak

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The United States is in the grip of an especially virulent flu season. At least 41 U.S. states have reported outbreaks, with more than 2,500 people being hospitalized and 18 children dying from it before the end of 2012.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Health officials say the numbers haven't even peaked yet. "I think we're still accelerating," Tom Skinner, a Center for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman says.

"It's about five weeks ahead of the average flu season," Lyn Finelli, lead of the surveillance and response team that monitors influenza for the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases says. "We haven't seen such an early season since 2003 to 2004."

Joe Lastinger's daughter Emily, 3, died only five days after coming down with the flu in late January.

"That was the first really bad season for children in a while," 40-year-old Lastinger says. "For whatever reason that's not well understood, it affected her and it killed her."

In 2012, flu-related pneumonia and deaths peaked in early January. That season was considered a "moderately severe" season for flu, and ended in mid-February. Officials say it's still too early to tell how bad this year's flu season will get.

These are the symptoms to watch for, according to data being gathered by Flu Near You, flu cases have increased dramatically over the last few weeks. Here are the season's most-reported symptoms:

1. Cough - 19 percent

2. Sore throat - 16 percent

3. Fatigue - 15 percent

4. Headache - 14 percent

5. Body Ache - 10 percent

6. Fever - 7 percent.

The CDC has already listed it as "intense" by monitoring flu activity around the world based on internet search terms. Roughly four percent of users on Flu Near You, a real-time tracking tool gaining about 100 new participants per week, say they're experiencing symptoms.

"That's huge," John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston told journalists. "Last year, we never got near this."

Brownstein is one of the founders of Flu Near You, a project, coordinated by Children's Hospital Boston, the Skoll Global Threats Fund and the American Public Health Association.

Brownstein's data shows cough is this year's most frequently reported symptom at 19 percent, ahead of sore throat at 16 percent, fatigue at 15 percent, headache at 14 percent, body ache at 10 percent, and fever at 7 percent.

Three out of four people reporting flu symptoms had not yet been vaccinated.

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