Deadly nationwide flu outbreak shows no sign of easing
A nationwide flu outbreak is showing no sign of easing up as at least four more deaths have been reported in the past few days, including three children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta said 14,676 people have been hospitalized with influenza since the flu season began in October, double the number from all of last year and the highest ever recorded.
In New York City, health officials confirmed Tuesday that two children had died. One was identified as 8-year-old Amely Baez of Queens, who died Monday shortly after she was rushed to a hospital with flu symptoms, health officials said.
Dr. Mary Bassett, the New York City health commissioner, said 6.5 percent of all patients seen at hospitals in the city in the past few days were for flu-related symptoms.
"That's the highest we've seen in the last four years," Bassett said at a news conference Tuesday to remind workers to take advantage of the city's sick pay law and stay home if they are not feeling well.
The CDC's latest influenza report shows that at least 53 children have died from the flu this season, including 16 just last week.
CDC officials said most flu seasons last up to 20 weeks and they expect to see increased flu activity for another several weeks.
Savanna Jessie, 7, of Columbus, Indiana, died on Friday, just one day after she tested positive for flu, strep and scarlet fever, her relatives said.
"Everybody is devastated. You never expect it to happen to you," Savanna's aunt, Courtney Hargett, told "Good Morning America."
Heather Holland, a 38-year-old second-grade teacher from Weatherford, Texas, died from flu complications early Sunday. The Weatherford School District sent a letter to parents telling them of Holland's death.
"She was a very, very kind lady, very good teacher. Everybody thought very highly of her, so it's really tough," Lindsay Larossa told ABC station KTRK in Dallas.
In one Atlanta, Georgia, suburb, 50 school bus drivers and monitors called in sick, forcing staff at the Coal Mountain Elementary School in Cumming to drive the buses to get children to school, officials said.
And in Aurora, Illinois, a Catholic school is closed for the rest of the week due to the flu, according to ABC station WLS.
"We have 26 [percent] of the student population out today with more sick children going home as the day has progressed," Holy Angels Catholic School posted on Facebook. "In an effort to try and minimize the exposure to the flu, we will be closing school for the rest of the week."