Flu season getting worse: Death toll rises to 37 children

File photo. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

ATLANTA — A deadly flu epidemic spreading across the country has now claimed the lives of 37 children, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

"I'm sadden to tell you there have been seven more pediatric death reported just this week, a total of 37 so far for the season," said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said more Baby Boomers, those 50 to 64 years old, are at a higher risk of getting the flu this year than in previous years.

"In other words, Baby Boomers have higher rates than their grandchildren right now," Fitzgerald said.

Baby Boomers are the largest population group in the U.S., and many of them have not gotten a flu shot, or continue to work and spread disease while sick on the job.

Dr. Stephanie Jernigan said flu deaths have dramatically risen this year compared to recent years.

"These pneumonia and influenza deaths went up sharply to 9.1 percent this week, and they've been elevated for three consecutive weeks,” Jernigan said.

Channel 2 Action News talked to local doctors about why this season is so bad, and what people can do to better protect their children.

Doctors said this year's flu season could last several more months.

Doctors from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta said it's best to avoid the emergency room in most cases, and if you think your child has the flu, take them to see their regular doctor.

"Your first stop should be the pediatrician, because the child's doctor is familiar with them and can best assess them,” Dr. Andi Shane said.

Doctors told Channel 2 Action News they think this flu season could last through April, and doctors said you should get the flu shot, for you and your children, if you haven't already done it.