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Flu striking older Americans at highest pace on record, CDC says

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A flu outbreak that already has killed at least 61 children is simultaneously slamming older Americans at a record clip, federal officials said Friday.

The flu hospitalization pace for people 65 and older is the highest since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began tracking such data in 2005. During this flu season, 198 out of every 100,000 people aged 65 and up have been admitted to hospitals with flu. The previous high, 183 per 100,000, was marked two years ago.

The flu deaths of at least 61 U.S. children outstrips the number of pediatric flu fatalities marked at this point last year — 28 — and at this point two years ago — 37.

Deaths from flu and pneumonia "remain at epidemic levels," CDC officials said.

This season, flu hit earlier than usual. An average season lasts about 13 weeks. This season is expected to go longer and extract a larger toll due to that early start. In all, there have been 11,077 laboratory-confirmed flu hospitalizations. Most influenza infecting people this year is a strain called H3N2, and about two-thirds of the H3N2 is a mutated variety that's not included in the cocktail of strains in the flu shot.