United States flu levels now rival 2009 swine flu — CDC

People are freaking out about the flu — so they're reaching for this stuff

People are freaking out about the flu — so they're reaching for this stuff

"We may be on track for a record", Anne Schuchat, MD, acting director of the CDC, said on a conference call with the media.

The CDC also reported an additional 10 pediatric deaths related to flu, bringing the reported total this season to 63. Scientists are studying circulating viruses to see if anything unusual is going on, Schuchat said. CDC officials say flu seasons can range from 11 to 20 weeks.

Schuchat said last week that "flu is incredibly complex and hard to predict, and this season is a somber reminder of why flu is one of the world's greatest public health challenges".

During the meeting, Dr Schuchat presented the status of seasonal flu in the United States and pandemic flu around the world, referencing the rate of activity, hospitalizations, and mortality.

"I wish there were better news this week, but nearly everything we're looking at is bad news", Schuchat said.

And while deaths among children - now at 63 kids - and adults have not been extremely high, it is possible they could increase in line with hospitalization rates, she said. The CDC considers the 2014-15 season "moderately severe" with high levels of illness, hospitalizations and deaths compared to previous seasons and has used it as a comparison to the current season.

Doctors are reporting that some patients have been infected with H3N2, the primary A strain of the flu, along with a B strain.

In the most recent week data were available, 10% of deaths in the nation were from influenza and pneumonia. Those groups include young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with heart or lung disease.

"There might be a second wave of influenza B infections", she said.

Schuchat said people should still get the flu shot and noted that strains better controlled by vaccines are becoming more common as the season progresses - and can even infect people who have already had the flu.

Schuchat said that while this year's virus "isn't new in terms of antigenic drift", virologists are studying it to see if there are "other explanations for the more severe disease we're seeing".

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