By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - As epidemic flu spreads across the United States, with 15 child deaths reported in nine states so far this year, federal health officials said on Tuesday they could not yet predict the severity of the current season.
Four of the children died during the week ending Dec. 20, when flu reached epidemic levels for children and adults, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
Nine states have reported child deaths: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Virginia, the agency reported.
With flu season extending from the fall into the spring, the toll is likely to increase, said Joe Bresee, Epidemiology and Prevention Branch chief for the CDC’s influenza division.
“Flu is amazingly unpredictable,” Bresee said. “As flu becomes more common and more intense over the next few weeks, unfortunately those death numbers and hospitalization numbers will continue to rise.”
There were 109 child flu deaths in the last flu season, according to the CDC.
Adult deaths from pneumonia and the flu have not reached the peaks of the last two seasons, said the CDC, which does not have real-time estimates on the number of adult deaths.
Bresee urged people who have not yet been vaccinated to get their flu immunizations, which the CDC recommends for nearly everyone over the age of six months.
The virus poses greatest risks to the very young and the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions. Symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, runny nose, sore throat, headaches and fatigue.
(Editing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)