More than 6 million already hit by flu, CDC says

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While states such as California and North Carolina have seen significant numbers of flu-related deaths this season, US health officials said Friday that the nationwide impact of influenza seems to be milder than last winter. Almost all of the pediatric illnesses are linked to H1N1.

"Bottom line is that this one has a bigger impact on kids", said Dr. Sanjay Mehta, a pediatrician at Kindercare in Toronto.

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These estimates are cumulative and will be updated over the course of the annual flu season on Fridays. Agency officials are providing the estimates for the first time during flu season as a way to underscore the risks of serious complications of the respiratory virus and to encourage people to get vaccinated. Most people who become sick with the virus are never tested. New Brunswick is aware of four such cases, Manitoba has logged five and Alberta has recorded 17. The CDC counts the death of every child from influenza. Flu usually takes off after Christmas and peaks around February.

Normally, he would advise parents of children with run-of-the-mill flu symptoms to treat them at home with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications to control fever. "So this is the year where we're potentially going to see more death and devastation from it". In the past, the CDC has waited until the end of the season to release estimates of how many people have been affected by flu. Anyone with flu complications or symptoms should seek medical treatment with an anti-viral drug, officials said. Of the 156 patients who have been admitted to hospital in the province this season - 27 of them to the intensive-care unit - a "large proportion", have not been immunized, she added. "Year in and year out, people who get a flu vaccine are better off than people who do not get vaccinated", the CDC said.

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