The most intense nationwide flu outbreak in a decade appears to be losing some steam, but has killed another 17 children, bringing the total to 114, federal health officials reported Friday.
The flu remained widespread in 45 states in the last full week of February, down from 48 the week before.
Another good sign: fewer people were showing up at doctors' offices with flu-like symptoms. Such visits made up 5% of all outpatient visits, down from 6.4% the week before. Just a few weeks ago, that number was at 7.7%, the highest seen since the swine flu pandemic of 2009.
The grim toll on children is now higher than that seen in the past couple of flu seasons, but not yet as high as the final count reported for the severe flu season of 2014-2015, when 148 children died. An estimated 56,000 people, mostly older adults, died that year. The CDC does not keep exact counts of adult flu deaths.
This year's flu vaccines are preventing about 36% of flu cases in vaccinated people but are working better, at a rate of about 59%, in young children, according to the CDC. The vaccines are less effective, about 25%, at preventing illnesses caused by the dominant virus behind this year's epidemic.
But most of the children who have died this year have not been vaccinated. That also has been true for children who died in previous years.