National Briefs

Flu season shows signs of leveling off

NEW YORK (AP) — This nasty flu season, which has been worsening for months, may finally be leveling off.

Health officials on Friday said about 1 of every 13 visits to the doctor last week was for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That’s no reason for health officials to celebrate yet: That level is among the highest in a decade. But it’s no worse than last week, and flu activity had been increasing each week since November.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said the number of states reporting heavy flu patient traffic also held steady at 43.

“I thought I was going to die, I really did,” said Ben Bland, a 39-year-old event planner in Kansas City, Missouri, who was hospitalized this week with pneumonia on top of flu. “My lungs felt like they were going to blow out of my esophagus every time I coughed. My body ached head to toe.”

This season started early and has been driven by a formidable type of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths. Making a bad year worse, this year’s flu vaccine is estimated to be only 25 percent effective against that type.

Preliminary data released last week indicated patient traffic in doctor’s offices and emergency rooms this flu season was as bad as the height of the swine flu pandemic in 2009. However, the CDC readjusted its numbers down slightly in Friday’s report, meaning this season did not quite match the intensity of flu activity seen in October 2009.

Still, it counts as one of the most intense flu seasons in more than a decade. Whether it’s peaking or not, flu season is still expected to last several more weeks.

“We are not out of the woods yet. We are not seeing any increase, and that is encouraging. But there still is a lot of flu happening out there,” said Dr. Daniel Jernigan, the CDC’s influenza chief. He said people should stay home from work or school if they get sick to prevent spreading flu, and people should still get vaccinated if they haven’t already. Even though the vaccine is not as powerful as officials hoped, it can lessen the illness’s severity, keep people out of the hospital, and save lives.

Flu remained widespread in every state except Oregon and Hawaii, the same as the week before.

Teen to be tried as adult in South Carolina school shooting

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) — A boy who was 14 when he was charged in the shooting death of his father at their home and a first-grader on a South Carolina elementary school playground will be tried as an adult, a judge ruled Friday.

The decision from Family Court Judge Edgar Long means Jesse Osborne, now 15, could face decades in prison if convicted of murder. If he had been tried as a juvenile, he could have been kept behind bars only until his 21st birthday.

Prosecutors treated the hearing like a mini trial. They played an interview the teen gave to investigators hours after the September 2016 shootings where he said he was angry at his father before the shootings started. The principal of the school testified at the horror she felt when she recognized Osborne as a former student.

And two psychologists testified that Osborne showed no remorse and was a danger to commit more crimes if he were treated as a juvenile and released from jail after several years. One said the teen enjoyed thinking about killing people.

Osborne said he loaded the wrong ammunition into his gun before going to Townville Elementary School after killing his father, and the gun jammed after every shot. He said he felt like the gun jamming was God’s way of making sure more people weren’t killed.

Along with the teen’s father, 47-year-old Jeffrey Osborne, Jesse Osborne is charged with killing 6-year-old Jacob Hall at the school. The boy was shot in the leg and bled to death. A teacher was wounded in the shoulder and another student was hurt, but both survived.

Osborne is also charged with three counts of attempted murder and five counts of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.

Defense attorneys argued that Osborne wasn’t old enough to be held responsible like an adult. They asked questions about the teen’s home life. Osborne said in his confession his father and mother often had angry, drunken arguments and he locked himself in his room, petting his rabbit or posting on social media.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Danielle Atkinson testified that Osborne could be rehabilitated, but there is no idea how long that could take.