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It's official: U.S. in grasp of full-blown flu epidemic

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

If you were to look out your window anywhere in the United States, you would see friends and neighbors battling the sniffles and lots of school desks and spots manned by employees empty. There's no denying it any further; the U.S. is in the grip of a full-blown flu epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "If you look at the charts that the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) put out on their web site, it clearly has gone above that threshold. So we are into what would classically be described as a flu epidemic," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health told CNN. "It's still on the uptick."

More worrisome is the fact that cases are far more severe than last year, health officials say.

For the week of December 23 to 29, statistics suggest that 41 states have widespread influenza activity, which was an increase of 31 states from the previous week.

There have been 2,257 hospitalizations in connection with the recent flu virus, the CDC report said. There have been 18 child deaths reported during this season. Various state agencies also are compiling statistics on flu-related deaths.

Fauci says that all this activity is taking place only about week five in a 12-week flu season.

"Remember, once it peaks, you still have a considerable amount of time where there is a lot of flu activity, and right now it may have peaked in some places, but for the most part, it has not yet peaked," he said.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency in the city due to the flu. The state of Massachusetts has been particularly hard hit by the influenza outbreak.

There have been 700 confirmed influenza cases among Boston residents since October, according to Menino's office; a staggering 10 times more than were seen in all of last year's flu season.

In addition, there have been 18 flu-related deaths this season in Massachusetts. Most deaths have been in older patients.

The mayor is working with community health centers to offer free vaccination clinics this weekend. The mayor urged residents to stay home from work or school if they are sick, as well as get their flu shots.

"This is the worst flu season we've seen since 2009, and people should take the threat of flu seriously," Menino said. More than four percent of emergency department visits at Boston hospitals are from flu cases, up from one percent during non-flu season.

Signs have been posted throughout the hospital discourage anyone from visiting who has a cough or fever. Anyone who does visit with those symptoms must wear a mask and perform hand hygiene.

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