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Flu hit younger people hard this year, CDC reports

A nurse prepares a patient to accept a influenza virus vaccine. The CDC reports this season’s vaccines have been effective in reducing illness.
A nurse prepares a patient to accept a influenza virus vaccine. The CDC reports this season’s vaccines have been effective in reducing illness.
CDC/ Douglas Jordan, M.A.

Influenza hospitalizations and deaths occurred among those ages 18-65 at a much higher rate than in past years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports in a Feb. 20 press release. People in this age group represented 61 percent of those hospitalized for the flu this season, up from 35 percent reported in past flu seasons. Flu deaths have followed a similar pattern.

“Flu hospitalizations and deaths in people younger- and middle-aged adults is a sad and difficult reminder that flu can be serious for anyone, not just the very young and old; and that everyone should be vaccinated,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden.

The H1N1 virus, which emerged in 2009 and is currently circulating in the United States, is noted for causing severe illness in young and middle-aged people.

This season’s flu vaccine did provide substantial protection, the CDC reports. A vaccination reduced an individual’s risk of needing to seek medical treatment for the flu by 60 percent across all age groups.

"Younger people may feel that influenza is not a threat to them, but this season underscores that flu can be a serious disease for anyone," — Dr. Tom Frieden

Flu surveillance data suggests flu activity will continue for several more weeks, particularly in areas where the flu season got a late start. Cases of influenza are currently widespread throughout the Northeast and Southwest regions of the United States.