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Young and healthy dying in latest U.S. influenza epidemic

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 12th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's flu season and everyone is coming down with the sniffles. What's becoming alarming to many health officials is that the current influenza epidemic is hitting younger people throughout the U.S. especially hard - a recent death included a seeming healthy 23-year-old man in California.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there are 2,622 nationwide hospitalizations since flu season began in October, which rep[resents an increase of 1,039 hospitalizations since last week. Most troubling is that the recent flu-related deaths include the young and the healthy.   

Thirty-five states are battling widespread flu activity, up from 25 last week. Of those statistics, 61.5 percent are said to be between the ages of 18 and 64, startling as opposed to last year, when the most affected group of people were described as 65 years old or older.

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Four more pediatric deaths associated with the flu outbreak were reported last week. Three are said to be associated with the 2009 H1N1 virus, which appears to be dominating the nationwide illnesses. These four deaths bring the total to 10.

"High levels of flu activity are likely to continue for several weeks. If you have not gotten your flu vaccination yet this season, you should get one now," the CDC warns. The agency says that those as young as six months old are able - and should be vaccinated.

The 23-year-old man in California, who had been described as "healthy" before falling ill, has California health officials urging everyone to get vaccinated.

"California is seeing an accelerated increase in flu activity over the past few weeks," Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health says.

The department reported last week that six of those deaths have been attributed to the H1N1 virus. Twenty-eight other deaths are currently under investigation.

"Our flu season may not peak for several more weeks, so I encourage everyone to get vaccinated to protect not only themselves, but those with whom they come into contact," Chapman warned.

The U.S. is in better shape than last year -- but it's not clear whether we've reached our season's peak.

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