Flu season has ramped up early in the United States and flu hospitalizations are worse than usual for this time of year, according to data published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s been more than a decade – going back to the 2010-2011 season – since flu hospitalization rates have been this high at this point in the season.
The CDC estimates there have been at least 880,000 illnesses, nearly 7,000 hospitalizations and 360 deaths from flu in the US so far this season. The first pediatric death in the country was reported this week.
CDC data shows that flu activity is highest in the South, and data from Walgreens that tracks prescriptions for antiviral treatments – such as Tamiflu – suggest hotspots in the Gulf Coast area, including Houston and New Orleans.
Overall, the share of lab tests that are positive for influenza have more than doubled over the past two weeks and eight states and Washington, DC, are reporting high or very high levels of respiratory illness.
Flu vaccination rates are lower than typical for this time of year, too. About 128 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed so far this season, compared with 140 million at this point last year and 156 million the year before that, according to CDC data.