January 7, 2020

Between 6.4 million and 9.1 million people have been stricken with the flu Dec. 28, 2019, according to the latest CDC data.

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Flu activity so far

According to Friday's Weekly Influenza Surveillance report from CDC, 45 states were experiencing widespread flu activity in the week ending in Dec. 28, 2019, while four states were experiencing regional flu activity. Just Washington, D.C., and Hawaii were experiencing local flu activity.

This flu season is on track to be as severe as the 2017-2018 flu season, which was the deadliest flu season in the United States in more than 40 years, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "The initial indicators indicate this is not going to be a good season—this is going to be a bad season," he said.

So far, the current flu season is already worse than 2018-2019 flu season. For example, CDC's latest data shows the cumulative hospitalization rate for the flu was 9.2 per 100,000 people as of Dec. 28, 2019, compared with 8.6 per 100,000 at the same point last season.

According to CDC, this flu season has led to at least three million medical visits and 55,000 hospitalizations. The data also shows that between 2,900 and 7,200 flu-related deaths occurred from Oct. 1, 2019, to Dec. 28, 2019. The agency said 27 pediatric deaths have been reported so far this flu season, including five reported during the week ending in Dec. 28, 2019. In addition, CDC found that the percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness increased to 6.9% in the week ending in Dec. 28, 2019, which is above the national baseline of 2.4%.

Fauci said it's possible that flu activity could drop soon, which would mean this year's flu season wouldn't be as severe as it's currently projected to be. "Hopefully this turns around and comes down, but if it continues on the trajectory it's on, it's not going to be good," he said.

However, the flu is hard to predict, he added. "The only thing predictable about flu is that it's unpredictable" (CDC Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report, 11/11; CDC "Flu View," accessed 12/9; Cohen/Bonifield, CNN, 1/3).

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