Fever Pitch

Why this year's flu strain hit so early and so hard

Hospitals in Boston are restricting visitors and keeping a close eye on people in their lobbies who sneeze or cough, ready to turn them away if they seem too sick. Flu patients at a hospital in Allentown, Pa., are treated in a heated tent to keep the virus from spreading through wards and infecting patients with weakened immune systems.

Such extreme measures against what we think of as an ordinary illness are necessary as the U.S. struggles with what is officially a flu epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention applies that label when at least 7.2% of people infected...

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