HealthDay News — Flu season descended on the United States early and hard this winter, with significant increases in flu activity observed during the past month.

The proportion of people seeing their health care provider with influenza-like-illness in the U.S. has been increasing steadily — rising from 2.8% to 5.6% during the last four consecutive weeks, according to the CDC. Influenza-like-illness peaked at 2.2% during the 2011-2012 season.

From Dec. 23-29, 31.6% of 9,363 specimens tested by WHO and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System collaborating laboratories were positive for influenza. The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza was below the epidemic threshold. Two influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported and were associated with influenza B viruses.

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Should all eligible healthcare workers be required to get flu shots?

U.S. Influenza Activity — Dec. 29, 2012

Source: CDC

“CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination and antiviral treatment when appropriate at this time,” the CDC said in a press conference. ” Antiviral treatment, started as early as possible after becoming ill, is recommended for any patients with confirmed or suspected influenza, who are hospitalized, seriously ill, or ill and at high risk of serious influenza-related complications.”

This includes young children, people 65 and older, people with certain underlying medical conditions, and pregnant women. Treatment should begin as soon as influenza is suspected, regardless of vaccination status or rapid test results and should not be delayed for confirmatory testing, the agency said.

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