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Of Maggie Fox
More than 6 million Americans have already taken influenza in this flu season and as many as 80,000 have ended up in the hospital, federal health officials said today.
For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can provide real-time estimates of the impact of public influence. They show that between 6 and 7 million people have been affected by influenza, 3 million or more have visited doctors because of flu symptoms and between 70,000 and 80,000 have been sick enough to have been hospitalized.
So far, the flu season has not taken off as in the past year, when about 50 million people have contracted the flu and 80,000 have died. It was the worst flu season in the last few decades.
The flu seasons vary from year to year and experts say they are almost impossible to predict. This year, the annual epidemic is unfolding more slowly than it was last year. "National influence is high," says the CDC in its latest report on influenza.
So far this year, 16 children have died of flu. The CDC counts the death of every child from the influence. Adult diseases and deaths are estimated.
"The calculations are based on adjusted rates of hospitalization confirmed by the laboratory and influenced by the influence collected through a surveillance network covering about 8.5% of the US population, or about 27 million people" , said the CDC. In the past, the CDC waited until the end of the season to publish estimates of how many people were affected by the flu.
The CDC recommends that almost everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot. Less than half of Americans ever do it.
"It's not too late to get a flu shot." Year after year, people who get a flu shot are better than people who are not vaccinated, "the CDC said. "Influenza vaccines reduce the risk of flu and serious flu complications that may result in hospitalization and have been shown to be life-saving in children".
Rapid treatment can save lives, the CDC said. There are several drugs against the influence on the market now. "People who are very ill or who are at high risk for serious flu complications and get flu symptoms should immediately see a health care provider for possible treatment with an influenza antiviral drug," the CDC said.