Public Health

Flu Epidemic Continues Assault on Children and Could Threaten Global Economy

The CDC reports that 8.2 percent of deaths in the U.S. during one week were flu related.

A flu epidemic in the United States was responsible for 8.2 percent of the country’s deaths during the week of Jan. 6-12 and threatens the global economy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Widespread flu activity is being reported in 48 states, meaning that more than 50 percent of a state’s counties are reporting flu. Thirty states are reporting high influenza-like illnesses.

The CDC reported that pediatric deaths have totaled 29 halfway through the flu season. It also reported that a high proportion of deaths of people older than 65 are occurring but the CDC does not track deaths for adults related to the flu.

The CDC reported that this year’s strain is the H3N2, which killed 153 children during the 2003-2004 flu season. The agency also said that about 19 per 100,000 Americans are getting hospitalized for the flu and most are elderly.

The CDC urges early treatment with an antiviral such as Tamiflu or Relenza and says that letting symptoms continue untreated could mean a trip to the hospital.

The potential cost of a continued outbreak could mean not just high body counts but a blow to the global economy as well. For example, during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, travel was drastically cut back, costing Asia-Pacific carriers $6 billion and American Airlines $1 billion. Additionally the net revenue of Park Place Entertainment, which owns Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, was down more than 50 percent during the second quarter of 2003 because of the lack of travelers and vacationers.

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