This year's especially grim flu season has been sickening and killing a very high number of people over 65, federal officials report -- even people who consider themselves relatively healthy and not frail.
The latest flu statistics show that while the season is leveling off, it's still a bad one for seniors.
"The numbers for hospitalizations are extremely high in the elderly. In fact, they are the highest we have had since surveillance began in 2005," says Dr. Lyn Finelli, a flu expert at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The deaths are way over the epidemic threshold. We are very concerned about the elderly this year", she added in a telephone interview.
Flu statistics show the virus is still widespread in 38 states. Nine percent of reported deaths were due to flu and pneumonia, still above what's considered an epidemic. And 14 more children died of flu last week, bringing the total this year to 59.
It's still especially bad in the midwest and west, although infections are beginning to wane in the east. Dr. Jeff Duchin, an epidemiologist and flu expert at the University of Washington in Seattle, says he's seen the impact.
"We have had a record in long term-care facility outbreaks this year," Duchin, who is also a spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said in a telephone interview.
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