Flu Becomes an Epidemic in the U.S. With 15 Child Deaths

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The flu virus has officially reached epidemic levels in the United States, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Influenza has become widespread in 36 states, and almost 7% of all deaths in the U.S. during the week of Dec. 15 were due to pneumonia and influenza, the CDC said. Officials calculate that a total of 15 children have now died over the course of this flu season.

The CDC continues to recommend flu vaccinations for anyone over the age of six months even though this year’s strain has mutated rendering the vaccine less effective than public health officials had hoped.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com