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New flu cases, hospitalizations drop for third week in a row

New flu cases, hospitalizations drop for third week in a row
Fewer new flu cases and hospitalizations suggests the 2019-2020 season may be slowing, CDC says. Photo by Alexandr Litovchenko/Pixabay

March 6 (UPI) -- Several key indicators of flu activity in the United States dropped for the third week in a row, suggesting that the 2019-2020 season may be winding down, according to the latest FluView report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to figures released Friday, the agency estimates that at least 34 million Americans have been sickened by the virus this season, with 350,000 of them requiring hospitalization. In addition, 20,000 deaths have been linked with the flu.

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All statistics are through February 29.

Still, the CDC noted that hospitalizations and deaths remain "moderate to low overall," and the percentage of visits to healthcare providers for "influenza-like" illness dropped from 5.5 percent to 5.3 percent during the most recent week. It was the third consecutive weekly decline.

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And, just two million more Americans were sickened during the most recent seven-day period, less than the three million per week seen for much of this winter.

In all, 6.9 percent of all deaths nationally during the week ending February 29 were attributed to pneumonia or influenza, which is below the CDC's threshold for an epidemic of 7.3 percent.

In addition, the number of states reporting "high" flu activity through Feb. 29 declined from 44 to 42, with Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming on the list.

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New York City and Puerto Rico also reported "high" flu activity, as they have for most of the current flu season.

The majority of laboratory-confirmed flu cases have involved the less virulent -- and contagious -- B type, but numbers of influenza A continue to rise as the end of winter approaches. The split between diagnoses of each strain is about even at this point, with half having one or the other, according to numbers reported to the CDC from testing labs across the country.

The vast majority of flu strains in circulation, however, respond to treatment with currently available antivirals.

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