CDC estimates nearly 5,000 people have died of flu so far this season

The rough flu season continues across the US. The CDC estimates 4,800 people have already lost their lives.

Thirty-two children have died, the most to die this early in the season since the CDC began keeping track in 2004.

Flu activity is high in 33 states, including most of the east coast. The CDC believes 87,000 people have been hospitalized.

Some are like an otherwise healthy 32-year-old Eric Valencia in Oregon, hooked up to ECMO, a machine that circulates his blood through an artificial lung. He was on life-support for nearly two weeks.

Valencia got sick at Christmas with what he thought was a bad cold.

"Then he secondarily developed a strep pneumonia, which is the more common pneumonia, but when you put those two together it makes a dramatic lung problem," said Dr. Robert Wells of Providence Medical Group.

The unusual early dominance of the B-strain of the flu seems to have hit children the hardest.

Anyone developing shortness of breath and chest pains should seek medical help - they can be signs of pneumonia.

"Someone who may have been sick with the flu and then recovered but then is sick again, that's a sign potentially that they may have bacterial pneumonia as a complication, they would then need to seek medical care," he said.

For those who come down with the flu, almost all can be treated with FDA-approved antiviral medications.

But doctors say the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu and its potentially serious complications.
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