(ATLANTA) — Two-third of states across the country are reporting either “very high” or “high” levels of influenza-like activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly report.
As of the week ending Nov. 19, the latest date for which data is available, 16 states as well as New York City and Washington, D.C. are reporting “very high” levels while 17 states are reporting “high” levels.
By comparison, during this time last year, all states were reporting “low” or “moderate” levels of activity with only New Mexico and Rhode Island reporting “high” levels.
The data comes as experts have warned that the flu season has begun earlier than usual, with cases on par with those seen typically seen in winter and causing hospital beds to fill up quickly.
So far, this flu season, there have been at least 6.2 million illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations, and 2,900 deaths from flu, according to CDC estimates.
Just a week earlier, as of the week ending Nov. 12, there were an estimated 4.4 million illnesses, 38,000 hospitalizations, and 2,100 deaths from flu reported.
The hospitalization rate, which sits at 11.3 per 100,000, continues to be the highest for this time in the season since the 2010-2011 season, as far back as statistics are available.
Although influenza-like illness is at the highest level at this point in the season in recent memory — the rate of increase has slowed down over the last two weeks.
In addition, five influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported this week, for a total of 12 deaths among children reported so far this season.
What’s more, CDC is reporting most influenza viruses tested match well to this season’s influenza vaccine.
Among adults aged 18 and older, as of mid-October — the latest date for which data is available — 26.3% were vaccinated against the flu compared with 23% last year, according to the CDC dashboard.
Vaccination coverage among children aged 6 months and older is roughly the same with 35.4% vaccinated as of the week ending Nov. 5 compared to 35.3% at the same time one year earlier.
However, among pregnant people, as of the end of October 2022, just 36.8% have received their flu shots compared to 48.6% of pregnant people who had received the flu shot at the end of October 2021.
The early flu season is additionally concerning with the pediatric surge of respiratory illness already filling up 78% of pediatric beds, according to data from the Department of Health & Human Services.
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