By Steven Reinberg
FRIDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- The flu season, which got off to an early and virulent start, continues to wind down, U.S. health officials reported Friday.
Although still elevated, flu activity declined in most parts of the United States during the week ending March 16, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
According to the CDC:
- Only one state, Michigan, reported high levels of flu activity.
- Five states experienced moderate activity: Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey and Virginia.
- Six states -- Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota and Utah -- and New York City reported low activity.
- Thirty-eight states experienced minimal activity: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
This flu season has been especially tough on older people, with slightly more than 50 percent of hospitalizations involving those 65 years and older.
One hundred and five children have died from the flu this season, with six deaths reported last week, the CDC said. Of the children who died, 90 percent had not received a flu vaccination, according to The Associated Press.
There is no system to report adult deaths from the flu, but the agency said the number of deaths remains higher than the threshold used to declare a flu epidemic.
The predominant strain of circulating flu this season continues to be influenza A H3N2, which typically poses bigger problems for young children and the elderly, according to the CDC. But predominant strains can vary across states and regions of the country, the agency noted.
An estimated 36,000 people die from the flu and its complications in a typical season, according to the CDC. From 1976 to 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.
Flu season usually peaks in late January or early February.
The best defense against the flu is the flu vaccine, the CDC said. The agency recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older gets vaccinated.
Two antiviral medications, Tamiflu and Relenza, can reduce flu symptoms and the course of the disease. To be effective, however, they must be started within 48 hours after symptoms appear.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, head and body aches, and runny nose. People at particular risk for flu and its complications include pregnant women, those 65 and older, and anyone with a chronic illness. The CDC urges these people to get the flu vaccine, which is available as an injection or nasal spray and in a stronger dose for seniors.
For more on the flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.