Second flu wave leads to longest season in a decade

Second flu wave leads to longest season in a decade
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The 2018-2019 flu season is now the longest in a decade after a second strain of the virus cropped up in February.

Data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that this year's flu season has lasted 21 weeks, exceeding the 20-week duration of the 2014-2015 season.

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"This season has been record-breaking in terms of duration," CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told CNN.

A strain that began spreading shortly after Thanksgiving last year was milder and led to fewer hospitalizations, suggesting that this flu season would be one of the shortest in recent history. But a second, more intense strain that appeared in February has extended the season.

Flu-related deaths could range from 35,000 to 55,000 this season, according to CDC estimates. About 80,000 Americans died from complications related to the flu during the previous season, according to the agency.

The CDC's flu tracker says this year's season is likely to conclude soon.

“It’s on the verge” of ending, Lynnette Branner told the AP. “If nothing changes.”