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Amid COVID-19 Virus Fears, Second Wave of Flu Hits US Children

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  • Amid COVID-19 Virus Fears, Second Wave of Flu Hits US Children

    At least 92 flu-related deaths have been reported in children, a higher total at this point of the year than in any season in the past decade

    By Mike Stobbe • Published 22 mins ago

    A second wave of flu is hitting the U.S., turning this into one of the nastiest seasons for children in a decade.

    The number of child deaths and the hospitalization rate for youngsters are the highest seen at this point in any season since the severe flu outbreak of 2009-10, health officials said Friday. And the wave is expected to keep going for weeks.

    Experts say it is potentially a bad time for an extended flu season, given concerns about the new coronavirus out of China, which can cause symptoms that can be difficult to distinguish from flu without testing.

    If coronavirus were to begin spreading in the U.S., there could be confusion about whether people are getting sick with it or the flu, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-diseases expert at Vanderbilt University.

    This flu season got off to its earliest start in 15 years, with surges of flu-like illnesses seen in parts of the South as early as October. Most cases were caused by a type of flu that usually causes substantial infections only in the spring, at the tail end of the flu season.

    That wave peaked in late December and dropped steadily for weeks afterward.

    But a second surge began in late January. Last week saw another rise in the percentage of doctor's office visits that were due to flu-like illness, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

    "We have not yet peaked for influenza. We are still on our way up,” Dr. David Weber, a University of North Carolina infectious-diseases specialist, said of the patient traffic in Chapel Hill.