CDC: Flu deaths approach record levels

NEW YORK (CBS) The flu epidemic is suspected of causing two more deaths, including a 5-year-old from New York and a 24-year-old from Las Vegas. Last week, deaths from influenza and pneumonia were responsible for about one of every 10 deaths in the U.S.

"She was fine. She was doing everything she needed to do -- was going to work. We're actually getting ready for a family cruise," said Steve Clark, whose wife died of the flu.

Early last week, 41-year-old Sabrina Clark from Utah began experiencing flu-like symptoms, according to her husband. "She came down, woke me up in the morning, said she thinks she needs to go to the hospital because she's been coughing up blood all night," Clark said.

Clark says doctors in Utah diagnosed the normally healthy mother of two with influenza B and strep throat. He says she died last Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors the influenza virus, says the rate of flu-related hospitalizations is approaching the highest amount on record. Several more weeks of increased flu activity could continue before the epidemic begins to subside says the CDC's acting director, Dr. Anne Schuchat. "If things continue like they are right now, we will have even more hospitalizations this year," she said.

To help stop people from getting sick, researchers from Columbia University are recommending hospitals use special ultraviolet light panels. The lamps can kill the virus while still remaining safe around people.

At Washington Regional Medical Center in Arkansas, UV robots are already being used to sterilize patient rooms. Shirley Bowman is the hospital's environmental services manager. "It's an added layer of protection for our patients to ensure that they have the cleanest, safest place they can come," she said.

Researchers are constantly examining new ways to combat the flu. A Japanese drugmaker says it has developed a pill that can kill the virus within a day, but until that's approved for use here in the U.S., the flu vaccine and washing your hands remain the best lines of defense.