(WALL STREET JOURNAL) — This year’s influenza season started earlier than expected and is sending more patients to the hospital, raising concerns this could be a more severe outbreak than in recent years.
Thirty-six states are now experiencing high levels of flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, as this year’s flu vaccine may not fully protect against a strain known as influenza A H3N2 that is currently circulating and tends to be more severe.
Fifteen children age 18 and under have died from the flu as of Dec. 20, compared with four such deaths around the same time last year, according to the CDC. A number of hospitals are outpacing previous years, with some restricting visitors to prevent the spread of the virus.
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“Our medical director said that in his eight years at the hospital, he had never seen double digits” in the number of patients hospitalized, said Jill Chadwick, a spokeswoman at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kan. It had a record 25 flu cases admitted as of Monday and two deaths.