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Flu Falls Below Epidemic Levels in U.S. as Season Ends

The annual flu season has ended in the U.S., as the number of people seeing doctors because of the virus or dying from it fell below epidemic levels last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

About 1.8 percent of doctor visits during the week ended March 30 were for complaints of influenza-like symptoms, such as fever, coughs and sore throats, the agency said. That’s below the national baseline of 2.2 percent. Influenza was responsible for 7.4 percent of all deaths during the week, including one child, less than the epidemic threshold, the CDC reported

The flu hit the U.S. earlier than normal this year, making its entrance the third fastest in the past decade. Early fears of a severe outbreak ebbed as the virus peaked, then plummeted, according to the CDC’s weekly Flu Tracker. One hundred and eleven children died from influenza during the season, the agency said.

The World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have recommended the viruses that should be included in the vaccine for the coming 2013-2014 season.

A new strain of bird flu that emerged in China has led to six deaths, with authorities in Shanghai ordering the slaughter of birds at a local market linked to the outbreak. There is no evidence yet that the virus can move from person-to-person, which would speed its spread, according to the World Health Organization. There are 14 confirmed cases of the new H7N9 infection thus far.

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