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Flu claims lives of 9 more children

| Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, 9:16 p.m.

WASHINGTON — In the deadliest week yet for the nation's stubborn influenza outbreak this season, nine more children died of flu-related illness last week, bringing the season's pediatric death toll to 29, as local health officials nationwide continue to take protective measures to stop the spread of the virus.

At the halfway point of the 2012-2013 flu season, the number of child deaths has nearly matched the 34 that died in the mild 2011-2012 flu season, health officials said on Friday.

More than half of the children who died were not vaccinated and most had underlying health problems, said Dr. Tom Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But it's been particularly rough on the elderly. Hospitalization rates for those 65 and over with laboratory-confirmed influenza jumped to 82 per 100,000 last week, from 70 per 100,000 the previous week, and about 50 per 100,000 during the last week of 2012. The overall hospitalization rate was 19 per 100,000.

Frieden said health care providers aren't offering the antiviral medications, Tamiflu and Relenza, at appropriate levels to reduce patient suffering.

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