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19 more children die as flu season takes toll

This year's flu season continues to take a deadly toll. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday it's confirmed that 19 more children died of influenza in recent weeks, bringing the total to 45 since flu season began in the fall.

That comes a day after the CDC reported disappointing results of this year's flu vaccine, which has proven to be only 23 percent effective at preventing the need for doctor's visits for influenza. CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports that's the second-worst track record for flu vaccine in a decade.

In a typical year, the CDC says the flu vaccine is about 50 to 60 percent effective, but this year's vaccine is not well matched to the dominant strain of the virus.

On Friday, the CDC released its latest update on the nationwide flu epidemic and it shows that as of last week, cases were widespread across 46 states.

High levels of flu-like illness were reported in 24 states, highlighted on the map below. That's actually an improvement from the previous week, when 29 states reported high levels of illness.


Adults age 65 and over are at higher risk of serious complications from the flu, and that age group has had by far the highest rate of hospitalizations this flu season. The CDC says 93 percent of those hospitalized with the flu had at least one underlying medical condition, most commonly metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Even though this year's flu vaccine is much less effective than usual, it still offers some level of protection, and health officials continue to recommend it for virtually everyone over the age of 6 months.

The CDC has also encouraged greater use of antiviral medications such as Tamiflu (oseltamivir), Relenza (zanamivir) and Rapivab (peramivir). These drugs can reduce the severity of illness and shorten the duration of the flu by a day or two, if taken early on. They are available with a doctor's prescription.

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