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Drop In Flu Vaccination Rates Sees Rise In Infection Deaths

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBSNewYork) - The Centers For Disease Control confirmed on Thursday that last year's flu season was one of the worst ever - the deadliest in at least four decades.

It's a reminder that influenza is more than a very bad cold, reports CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez.

The flu can be a deadly infection, especially for the elderly and infants, although last year even healthy children and young adults were hospitalized and died from the flu.

Now the CDC is out to get more people immunized, especially by the end of October.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb rolled up their sleeves to get flu shots in Washington, doing their part to make sure the upcoming flu season isn't as bad as the last one.

The CDC estimates 80,000 people died of the flu and its complications last season. That's the highest death toll in at least four decades. There were also 900,000 hospitalizations.

"It's especially deadly for older adults, pregnant women, chronic medical conditions and children," said Adams.

The CDC also reported a record-breaking number of pediatric deaths from the flu: 180 kids.

"Think of it: 180 families put a child in a grave last year because of a vaccine-preventable infection," he said.

The CDC blames the severity on a particularly bad strain and lower vaccination rates in key groups.

"More than 40 percent of kids were not vaccinated against the flu," said Adams. "Seeing a decline in coverage in this age group is very, very worrisome."

As for this year's flu season, the CDC says it's impossible to predict. It depends on how many people get vaccinated, Whether a strain that's in this year's vaccine mutates or changes so that the vaccine doesn't provide good immunity and sometimes a virus strain not in the shot unexpectedly shows up.

Bottom line, the flu vaccine is still your best protection against becoming a casualty of this year's flu season.

Scientists won't know how well the vaccine covers this year's viruses until they can analyze the virus strains making people sick this year and that doesn't happen until well into the season.

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