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Flu hitting young people harder this year

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The flu is hitting younger people harder this season than in years past, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

People between the ages of 18 and 64 represent 61% of all influenza-related hospitalizations recorded during the current flu season — a significant increase compared with previous years when this age group represented about 35% of cases.

More flu deaths than usual have also occurred in people under 65. Adults between 25 and 64 account for more than half of flu deaths this season, according to the CDC, compared with less than a quarter last year.

“Influenza can make anyone very sick, very fast and it can kill,” said the CDC’s director, Dr. Tom Frieden. “Vaccination every season is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself.”

CDC experts estimate only a third of people 18 to 64 had been vaccinated by November. About 40% to 45% of Americans get vaccinated each year, Frieden said.

Health officials continue to encourage vaccinations for everyone who is at least 6 months old. The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report noted this year’s flu vaccine reduces the chance of having to go to the doctor for treatment by about 60% across all age groups. In past years, the vaccine’s effectiveness has ranged from 30% to 65%.