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Friday
Jan182013

Flu Moves West, 48 States Now Experiencing Widespread Outbreaks

iStockphoto/Thinknstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that 48 states are now reporting widespread flu outbreaks -- including California.

The U.S. is likely about halfway through flu season -- a season that has proven to be worse than average for everyone, but particularly bad for the elderly, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said Friday during a weekly teleconference.

The CDC’s latest report shows a dramatic spike in influenza-related hospitalizations in those aged 65 and above, Frieden said. The overall rate of hospitalization among the country’s elderly due to lab-confirmed influenza is 82 per 100,000 population -- by far the highest of any age category.

“The heaviest toll is in seniors in terms of deaths, particularly when H3N2 is the predominant strain, which it is this year,” Frieden said. He added that during any given flu season, “Usually about 90 percent of deaths are in... people over the age of 65.”

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Frieden added that the rates “are undoubtedly an underestimate,” since many patients who are hospitalized with the flu never have influenza tests that are confirmed in a lab, or their illness is characterized as some other related illness.

Frieden also said that the original projection of 135 million available doses of influenza vaccine this season has been adjusted to 145 million -- an adjustment confirmed by FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, who said the FDA has been working with seven manufacturers producing this season’s flu vaccine.

“Collectively, we have 145 million doses of this season’s flu vaccine,” Hamburg said.

As of this week, Frieden said, 129 million of these doses have already been distributed. He said patients who want to find where they can get the vaccine can go to the flu.gov website. There they will find an interactive tool designed to aid in finding out where flu vaccinations are available. He advised that those hoping to get the flu shot call ahead to ensure that the vaccine is still available.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio