Severe flu season slams all but one state — CDC

Two children die from the flu in Kentucky

In the past week, the CDC has seen a spike in flu-related visits to doctors' offices that report to the CDC.

As of the week ending January 6, the Minnesota Department of Health reports more than 1,700 flu-related hospitalizations, 55 outbreaks of influenza-like illness in long-term care facilities, 43 outbreaks in schools and one pediatric flu death this season.

At UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, the emergency room saw more than 200 patients on at least one day, mostly because of the flu.

The main culprit for this harsh flu season is the predominant strain, H3N2, which causes the worst outbreaks of the two influenza A viruses and two types of influenza B viruses circulating.

For those who haven't gotten the flu, health officials recommend getting the vaccine, washing their hands often and avoiding close with anyone coughing or sneezing. So there's a chance the season could slow down quickly or end early, making it a more normal flu season.

Those are two of the key ways the CDC monitors the severity of a flu season.

The flu has hit California so hard this season, pharmacies have run out of medicine to treat it, emergency rooms are packed and the death toll is rising.

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Officials, cautioned, however, that the hospitalization rate for the flu so far this year is slightly below the 2014-2015 rate.

According to CDC director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, "While our flu vaccines are far from flawless, they are the best way to prevent getting sick from the flu, and it is not too late to get one". It's especially risky for children and the elderly. "And sometimes the virus mutates in a way you can't predict", he said.

He also noted that it's not yet clear how effective this year's vaccine has been, particularly with the A strain.

It's no secret by now that the flu vaccine is not a good match with the H3N2 flu strain that is dominating the season. Any protection is better than none.

"Most of the in-patients are here for medical reasons other than the flu", Dossey said. The vaccine is more effective against those other strains.

The flu season may be peaking in this country, but it could continue for many more weeks.

State health officials say that 27 people younger than 65 have died of the flu in California since October. While there are spot shortages of antiviral drugs, the overall supply is plentiful.

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