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Pediatric flu deaths now at 13, flu widespread in 24 states

Two more influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bringing to 13 the number of such deaths for the current flu season.

New York City and 19 states, including Massachusetts, are experiencing high influenza-like illness activity in terms of visits to outpatient providers for symptoms such as a fever of 100 degrees, cough and sore throat, and the flu is considered widespread geographically in the commonwealth as well as in 23 other states.

Some 3.4 percent of visits to reporting outpatient providers in Massachusetts were for influenza-like illnesses for the week ending Dec. 29, according to the state’s most recent flu activity report.

All the state’s regions were reporting the proportion of these visits above baseline with the highest rates in the Northeast and Southeast regions at 5.15 and 4.61 percent, respectively, and the lowest in the West at 1.57 percent.

The Northeast also had the highest number of laboratory-confirmed cases for the week at 275 as well as the highest number to date this season at 718.

The number of laboratory-confirmed cases to date in the state is 2,194. Last year at this time, there were 1,298 laboratory-confirmed cases of flu.

The cumulative rate of influenza-associated hospitalizations in the state between Sept. 30 and Dec. 29 is 2.86 percent and is similar to the rate during last year’s severe season at this time.

According to the CDC, the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness in the country increased to 4.1 percent for the week ending Dec. 29, which is above the national baseline of 2.2 percent.

All 10 surveillance regions of the country, according to the CDC, reported influenza-like illness activity at or above their region-specific baseline level with the percentage of outpatient visits ranging from 1.7 to 6.1 percent during week 52.

The CDC said the increase in the percentage of such patient visits may be “influenced in part by a reduction in routine healthcare visits during the winter holidays, as has occurred during previous seasons.”