The two-wave US flu is now the longest in a decade



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Three months ago, this flu season was becoming short and light in the US. But an astonishing second viral wave made it the longest in 10 years.

This flu season was officially going for 21 weeks, according to reports collected until last week and released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday. This makes it one of the oldest since the government began monitoring the duration of the flu season for more than 20 years.

Some experts have compared the unusual double waves to having two different flu seasons compressed against each other in one.

"I do not remember a season like this," said dr. Arnold Monto, a researcher at the University of Michigan who has studied respiratory diseases for more than 50 years.

The recent most recent recent flu season was 20 weeks, which occurred in 2014-2015.

Influenza can cause a miserable and relatively mild illness in many people and a more serious illness in others. Young and old children are at increased risk of influenza and its complications. Flu shots are recommended annually for everyone except the very young.

The current season began Thanksgiving, a typical start time. At the outset, most illnesses were caused by a strain of influenza that tends not to cause so many hospitalizations and is more easily controlled by vaccines.

But by mid-February, a more unpleasant strain began to cause more illness and increase hospitalizations.

Not helping: the problem is not well related to the vaccine, said Lynnette Brammer of the CDC, who oversees the flu screening.

Still, this flu season is not as bad as the 19-week season last winter, the deadliest in at least four decades. It is estimated that 80,000 Americans died of flu and their complications last season.

The CDC is estimating that flu-related deaths this season range from 35,000 to 55,000.

More good news: Brammer said that although the virus is notoriously unpredictable, the signs suggest that the flu season should end soon.

"It's about to end," she said, "if nothing changes."

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