CDC: U.S. flu activity continues to decline; just five states now reporting widespread illness

Friday, January 23rd 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ Flu cases in the United States have declined, with only five states reporting the disease is widespread, health officials said Thursday.

Only Delaware, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont reported a high number of cases for the week ending Jan. 17, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty states were listed at that level the previous week, the CDC said.

At the flu's peak in the week ending Dec. 20, 45 states had widespread flu. ``Widespread'' is defined as outbreaks of influenza or increases in influenza-like illnesses paired with lab-confirmed influenza samples in at least half the state.

Despite the flu's decline, officials have warned that cases could rise in some communities or regions because influenza strains can peak at different times.

Most of this season's activity has been from the type A form of the flu virus. Outbreaks of type B influenza can appear late in a flu season, officials said.

Fewer people are seeing a doctor because of the flu. For the first time since Nov. 8, the percentage of outpatient visits for the flu, at 2 percent, was lower than what was expected nationally.

This flu season, 111 children have died from the flu, the CDC said. Most of the children were very young, with the median age at 4 years old. Child deaths were reported in 33 states, with Texas and Colorado having the most with 12 each.