ATLANTA — This year’s seemingly unyielding flu season continues to ravage the entire continental United States, as health authorities track additional deaths and hospitalizations — and there’s more of the season left.
Influenza activity continues to be widespread in all states except Hawaii, according to the weekly flu report released Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All while, based on the latest data, the flu season has not even peaked yet, said Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the CDC.
“Hopefully we’re in the peak currently, since the data is a week behind, or that it peaks soon. Regardless, there is a lot of flu activity happening across the country and likely many more weeks to come,” Nordlund said.
The deaths of seven more children were reported this week, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths for the season, which began in October, to 37.
There were 11,965 new laboratory-confirmed cases during the week ending Jan. 20, bringing the season total to 86,527.
The number of people infected with influenza could be much higher because not everyone goes to their doctor when they are sick nor do doctors test every patient.
Additionally, there were 41.9 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people. That’s an increase from the week before on par with the increases the CDC has noticed from week to week for the past couple of weeks.
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Flu can cause mild to severe illness, but also turn deadly.
“It’s still not too late to get vaccinated, as we’re starting to see some increase in Influenza A H1N1 and Influenza B activity,” she said, adding that if you think you have flu or if you are at a high risk for complications from flu, it is important to seek care early.
“Influenza antiviral treatment is recommended as early as possible for people at high risk, which includes children younger than age 5 but especially less than age 2, adults age 65 and over, pregnant women, and people with underlying medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes — in children, a big category includes those with neurologic or developmental disorders,” she said.
Over the past 15 flu seasons, the current season is the first time all states in the entire continental U.S. have reported widespread flu activity during the same week, according to the CDC.
“We are certainly seeing the impact of flu at our hospital locally,” said Dr. Patricia Whitley-Williams, professor and chief of the division of pediatric allergy, immunology, and infectious diseases at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.