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CDC Says Flu-Related Pediatric Deaths Could Break Records

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number of people going in to see a doctor for flu-like illness is increasing, and that by the end of last week, more than six percent of all people coming into clinics and emergency departments had an influenza-like illness. That's the highest level of activity since the deadly swine flu pandemic nearly 10 years ago, reports Dr. Tara Narula.

The CDC says this season's epidemic is on track to rival the 2014-15 flu season. That year, the CDC estimates 34 million Americans got the flu. More than 700,000 were hospitalized.  About 56,000 died.

At least 37 children have been killed by the flu this season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects flu-related pediatric deaths could reach record highs.

"We've seen kids are really making up the predominant amount of influenza-like illness," said CDC Influenza Division Director Daniel Jernigan. "And they're taking that back to school, it's getting transmitted there, and I think that's really what's driving a lot of the visits to the outpatient clinic right now."

1/25/2018 Related Story: Oklahoma Flu-Related Deaths Up To 74, OSDH Says

Schools across the country are racing to contain the virus. At least six school districts in Oklahoma closed because too many staff and students called in sick.

Baby boomers and the elderly are also being hit hard by the virus, and experts say the reason is complicated. They say it may have to do with how flu strains have evolved over time and how that affects immunity.

The flu is currently widespread in 49 states.

This year's flu season has been dominated by the H3N2 strain which is linked to more severe illnesses. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer from New York is asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for extra help.

"Unfortunately, we are not over the flu season. They expect it to continue for weeks and even months," Schumer said. "So the idea that it peaks and goes down, this is not happening."

Senator Schumer says he wants the CDC to set up a surveillance team in New York to help study the spread of the illness.

Doctors are reminding us that getting vaccinated is the best protection. 

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