Flu death rate remains below epidemic threshold in U.S.

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The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) remained below the epidemic threshold during the first week of 2010, authorities said Friday.

P&I death rate was 7.3 percent in week one, below the epidemic threshold of 7.6 percent, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on its web site.

The epidemic threshold is the point at which the observed proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia or influenza is significantly higher than that would be expected at that time of the year in the absence of substantial influenza-related mortality.

Since last October, when the A/H1N1 pandemic peaked and as many as 48 states had widespread activity of the new virus, the death rate attributed to P&I had been above the epidemic threshold running for 11 weeks.

As the A/H1N1 flu continues to decline, the death rate linked to the P&I was dipping below the epidemic threshold in week 50 of 2009, but bouncing back in week 51. After that, it remained below the epidemic threshold.

According the CDC, there are no states reporting widespread A/H1N1activity.

Nevertheless, health officials stressed that there still could be a resurgence of flu.

"Flu is unpredictable, and this flu season is far from over," said Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier this week. "Flu season typically lasts until May, and we don't know whether there will be additional waves of flu illness."

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