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CDC: Flu hospitalizations for elderly highest ever recorded

By Danielle Haynes
CDC: Flu hospitalizations for elderly highest ever recorded
The U.S. Centers for Disease control said more elderly patients are being hospitalized for the flu than ever recorded. File photo by David Tulis/UPI. | License Photo

ATLANTA, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The hospitalization rate of elderly Americans for influenza this season is at the highest rate ever recorded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC warned the 2014-15 flu season would be a bad one and new numbers from the agency's weekly FluView report show the elderly, in particular are spending more time in the hospital because of it.

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About 198 out of every 100,000 people 65 and older have been hospitalized this season with a flu-related illness. A total of 86,000 elderly have been hospitalized.

The health organization said so far in the 2014-15 flu season, the H3N2 strain has been the most common, a concerning trend. The three most deadly flu seasons in the past 11 years -- 2012-13, 2007-08 and 2003-04 -- each featured H3N2 as the predominant strains.

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H3N2 viruses are characterized as "moderately severe" by the CDC.

Adding to the problem is that this year's flu vaccine doesn't fully cover H3N2. Earlier this month, the CDC said this season's vaccine had a 23 percent efficacy rate, compared to 51 percent the year before.

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Each year's flu vaccine is created to stop the three or four most common strains of the virus currently circulating. Since the 2014-15 vaccine was created, the predominant H3N2 variant changed slightly, or "drifted."

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The vaccine will still protect against H3N2 to some degree, though, the CDC s ays. In the 2007-08 flu season, H3N2 drifted, but the vaccine still had an overall efficacy of 37 percent and 42 percent efficacy against H3N2.

Those at high risk for serious complications from the virus are children younger than 5 years old, adults over the age of 65, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions.

The CDC recommends these high-risk patients should immediately take antiviral drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza if flu symptoms appear, and not wait for lab tests to confirm flu infection.

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Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.

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