WASHINGTON – The United States was in the grip on Thursday of a deadly influenza outbreak that has hit harder and earlier than in previous years, and has claimed the lives of at least 18 children. “It looks like the worst year we’ve had since 2003-2004,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci said this year’s influenza strain, which has sickened thousands across the country, is particularly severe. “The type of flu is one that generally is more serious. It’s the H3N2 variety, which is historically more serious than we see with other types of virus,” he said. The epidemic, which broke out in early December, has caused some 2,200 hospitalisations across the US, federal health officials said. Particularly hard hit has been the northeastern city of Boston, where officials have declared a public health emergency. City officials said there have so far been about 700 confirmed cases of the flu, almost 10 times the number from this time last year. “This is the worst flu season we’ve seen since 2009, and people should take the threat of flu seriously,” Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said in a statement. “I’m urging residents to get…
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