CDC: Flu kills 8 more children, but overall death rates fall

Registered nurse Charlene Luxcin administers a flu shot to a patient at the Whittier Street Health Center in Boston, Mass., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. Boston declared a public health emergency Wednesday as the city tried to deal with a harsh flu season and the state reported 18 flu-related deaths so far. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Is the worst of the flu epidemic behind us? A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the number of flu-related deaths has fallen during the week of January 20 to 26.

The CDC says in its latest report that 9.4 percent of all U.S. deaths were caused by flu or pneumonia. That's still considered an epidemic, rising above the CDC's measurable threshold of 7.4 percent of all deaths during the fourth week of the year, however it represents a decrease from the 9.8 percent of all U.S. deaths reported in last week's FluView surveillance.

Forty-two states are now reporting widespread flu activity, meaning more than 50 percent of its counties are affected by flu, but that's also down from 47 states from the previous report.

The number of states reporting high flu activity has also decreased, from 26 states and New York City last week to 24 states and the City for the latest report. The CDC updates its U.S. flu statistics every Friday.

People looking for information on their state can visit the CDC's website.

However, the country is not out of the clear. Eight more children died from flu over the past week, raising the total to 45 for the 2012-2013 influenza season. The CDC does not specifically track adult death rates from flu.

Flu-related hospitalizations still remain high, and in fact are on the rise. For all ages, 25.9 out of 100,000 people were hospitalized with flu-like symptoms, up from 22 out of 100,000 from last week's report. The elderly continue to be the age group getting hit hardest, with more than 50 percent of those hospitalized being ages 65 and older.

The CDC urges people 65 and older and other high-risk people, such as those with underlying medical conditions or women who are pregnant, to seek treatment quickly if they develop flu symptoms. They would then be prescribed an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza, which the CDC says can reduce symptoms and help avert more serious complications like pneumonia or the need for hospitalization.

It's also not too late to get a flu shot, according to the CDC. The agency recommends people visit the flu vaccine finder to find available doses in your area.