According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year's flu vaccine is supposed to be stronger and better. Flu outbreaks can start as early as October and linger until May. (Courtesy of CDC)

Sixteen flu-related deaths were reported Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bringing the total number of pediatric flu-related deaths this season to 53.

In its weekly report, the CDC revealed influenza activity widespread in 48 states and Puerto Rico, down from 49 states in the previous two weeks.

“Our latest tracking data indicate that flu activity is still high and widespread across most of the nation and increasing overall,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting CDC director. “So far this year, the cumulative rate of hospitalizations is the highest since we’ve been tracking in this way, which goes back to 2010. This is a very difficult season.”

The flu, which is caused by viruses, is a contagious respiratory illness with mild to severe symptoms that can be deadly, according to the CDC.

The CDC reports that the percentage of deaths from pneumonia and influenza-like illnesses has been considered epidemic across the country. While no pediatric deaths were reported in D.C. for the week ending Jan. 27, the flu was considered widespread in Maryland and Virginia over that period, and “local” in D.C. — the highest level of flu activity the District can report, according to WTOP.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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