NEW YORK — The U.S. flu season is underway, with at least seven states reporting high levels of illness and rising cases in other parts of the country, health officials say.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new flu data Friday, showing very high activity last week in Louisiana and high activity in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Carolina from South. It was also high in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory where health officials declared a flu outbreak earlier this month.
“We’re off to the races,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University.
Traditionally, the winter flu season peaks in December or January. But it took off in October last year and will make its debut in November this year.
Influenza activity was moderate but increasing in New York, Arkansas, California, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. And even though flu activity has been high in Alaska for weeks, the state didn’t report data last week, so it wasn’t part of the latest count.
Tracking during flu season relies in part on reports of people with flu-like symptoms who visit doctors’ offices or hospitals; Many people with the flu are not tested and therefore their infections are not laboratory confirmed. COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses can sometimes confuse the issue.
Alicia Budd, who leads the CDC’s flu surveillance team, said several indicators show a “continued increase” in the flu.
There are different types of flu virus, and the version that has spread the most so far this year generally causes fewer hospitalizations and deaths among older people – the group that the flu tends to affect. the most victims.
So far this fall, the CDC estimates there are at least 780,000 flu cases, at least 8,000 hospitalizations and at least 490 flu-related deaths, including at least one child.
Budd said it’s not yet clear how effective current flu vaccines are, but that the vaccines are well matched to the flu strains that are emerging. In the United States, about 35% of adults and 33% of children have been vaccinated against the flu, according to current CDC data. This is down from last year in both categories.
Flu vaccination rates are better than those for the other two major respiratory viruses – COVID-19 and RSV. About 14% of adults and 5% of children have received the currently recommended COVID-19 vaccine, and about 13.5% of adults 60 and older have received one of the RSV vaccines that became available earlier this year.
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