CDC: Despite early vaccine troubles, flu season shaping up as "typical"

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Despite the flu vaccine shortage at the beginning of the flu season, statistics released Friday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that this season may be typical of years past.

Noting a slow start to the 2004-2005 flu season, CDC officials say the number of cases of flu have continued to rise since the beginning of the year. Flu activity probably has yet to peak, according to a report in the March 4 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The flu season typically peaks in February, making this year quite typical thus far, according to Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist in the CDC's influenza branch. While statistics from years past do not give definitive information about when the flu season will peak or slack off, Brammer said, the assumption is the country is close to seeing peak activity.

A total 33 states reported widespread influenza activity, 15 states reported regional activity, and both New York City and Washington, DC, reported local activity for the week ending Feb. 19. The death rate for deaths attributed to complications from the flu and pneumonia was only slightly above the epidemic threshold at 8.5 % during that period, according to CDC data.