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Flu season hasn't peaked yet, CDC warns

ATLANTA -- The flu season has yet to reach its peak, despite a dropoff in cases in some states, health officials warned yesterday.

At least five states -- Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Washington, and West Virginia -- no longer have widespread outbreaks of flu, but 42 others, including Massachusetts and the five other New England states, still do, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The flu season in the United States got off to an unusually early and harsh start, raising fears that this could be one of the deadliest seasons in years, especially among children.

"If you look at overall data from nationwide surveillance, it doesn't look like it's peaked yet," said Dr. Scott Harper, a CDC flu expert. "Nationwide, influenzalike illnesses are still on the rise."

Child deaths from the flu also are increasing, Harper said. The CDC said it would not release details on such deaths until tomorrow. But late last month, the agency said 42 children had died from the flu, about half of them under the age of 5. About 92 children under age 5 typically die each flu season, according to the CDC.

Nationally, more people are visiting the doctor for flulike illnesses. About 9.4 percent of all outpatient visits surveyed by the CDC last week involved such illnesses, up from 7.7 percent in the previous week and the highest rate so far this season.

In addition, pneumonia and influenza accounted for a season-high 9 percent of deaths, up from 7.8 percent the previous week, in a survey of 122 US cities.

The states listed as having widespread flu activity are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

City health departments in New York City and the District of Columbia also have reported widespread activity.

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