Between 2.6 million and 3.7 million people have been stricken with the flu so far this season, according to the latest CDC data.
Flu activity so far
According to Friday's Weekly Influenza Surveillance report from CDC, 23 states were experiencing widespread flu activity in the week ending on Dec. 7, while Alaska and Washington, D.C were experiencing sporadic flu activity.
Meanwhile, 26 states were experiencing local or regional flu activity:
This flu season is worse than last year's was at the same point in the season, according to the report. For example, the data shows the cumulative hospitalization rate for the flu is 3.9 per 100,000 people this season, compared with 2.5 per 100,000 at the same point last season.
According to CDC, this year's flu season has led to at least 1.2 million medical visits and 23,000 hospitalizations. The data also shows that between 1,300 and 3,300 flu-related deaths occurred from Oct. 1, 2019, to Dec. 7, 2019. The agency said 10 pediatric deaths have been reported this flu season, including four during the week ending in Dec. 7. In addition, CDC found that the percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness increased to 3.2% in the week ending in Dec. 7, above the national baseline of 2.4%.
According to CDC officials, a barrage of illnesses across the South—thanks to a surprise strain of the flu virus—is behind the quick escalation of this year's flu season. That strain of virus isn't as dangerous to older people, experts said. Scott Epperson, who tracks flu-like illnesses for CDC, said there's a chance the flu season could peak this month, which would be much earlier than when it usually peaks, around February.
"It really depends on what viruses are circulating," Epperson said. "There's not a predictable trend as far as if it's early it's going to be more severe, or later, less severe" (CDC Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report, 12/13; CDC "Flu View," accessed 12/9; CDC report, accessed 12/16; AP/NBC News, 12/7).