ATLANTA, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. influenza activity decreased in the week ending Feb. 8 but remained high in many states, with California reporting 243 confirmed deaths.
Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, confirmed influenza-related deaths in the state increased by 41 from last week to a total of 243 confirmed deaths for the 2013-14 flu season.
Four of the 243 were pediatric deaths. An additional 41 deaths were still under investigation, but not yet confirmed, Chapman said.
During last year's flu season, California reported a total of 106 deaths.
The number of deaths by week appeared to be decreasing in California, where both outpatient visits and hospitalizations decreased and hospitalizations were within levels that would be expected at this point in the season -- indicating influenza has peaked.
"The downward trend in the number of influenza cases is a good sign, but the season is far from over," Chapman said. "Unfortunately, this influenza season is still severe and the number of influenza related deaths continues to rise. Vaccination is still the best way to prevent illness and the spread of illness."
The weekly flu report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said of the 7,562 specimens tested nationwide 16.8 percent were positive for influenza -- down from 19.6 percent the previous week.
Ten influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported to the CDC, but all occurred in the weeks before the week ending Feb. 8. A total of 50 influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported so far this flu season.
Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, New York, Oklahoma and Texas reported high influenza-like illness. Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia reported moderate influenza-like illness.
Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and New York City reported low flu-like illness.
Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming reported minimal flu-like illness.