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Intense flu season has required some of medicine's most difficult choices

Jan 27 2018

CBS News

By Tony Dokoupil

For the third straight week, federal health officials say the flu is widespread in every state except Hawaii. Thirty-seven children have died from the flu since the season started in October.

The most intense flu season in years has required some of the most difficult decisions in medicine.

Diana Barron Gonzales says her best friend, Maria Paniagua, caught the flu while seven months pregnant. Doctors revived Paniagua, a mother of four in San Jose, California -- but couldn't save her baby girl.

"If they would have operated on her with the Cesarean, they could have lost the mother or the child or both," Barron Gonzales said.

This flu season is already the most widespread on record, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

And it's may be yet to peak, says Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the CDC's influenza division.

"While part of the country may be seeing flu activity actually going down, it remains high for a lot of the U.S.," Jernigan said. 

This season, baby boomers have been hit nearly as hard as they elderly and even harder than the very young.

"Vaccine coverage is not as high in that group," Jernigan said. 

Experts say that if you have to call out sick, consider calling in to a doctor.

"I had probably a 102.6 fever, so even leaving the house, in my opinion, was just not an option," said Dana Castine. 

Flu-stricken Castine used LiveHealth Online, one several apps allowing virtual doctor visits, to get herself on the path to wellness without knocking anyone else off it. 

"After I was well and went back to work, coworkers, I explained to them, this is a great tool," Castine said.

If someone in your own house gets the flu, and you hope to avoid it, doctors suggest isolating toothbrushes, changing bedsheets often, and wiping down computers and remotes – as flu suffers tend to hold onto both of those pretty tightly while on couch.

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