Flu activity is widespread in just about every US state and the death rate is nearly double what it was last year, federal health officials say.
So far, about 9.7 million people have fallen ill and 87,000 people have been hospitalized, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on Friday.
About 4,800 people have died, an increase of 65 percent since the New Year began.
Pediatrics deaths are double what they were at this time last year, 32 as of Monday compared to 16 in mid-January 2019.
Experts say this is further evidence that the 2019-20 flu season is on track to be one of the worst seasons in recent memory.
New figures from the CDC show that 87,000 people have been hospitalized and about 4,800 people have died from the flu, which is a 65 percent increase since 2020 began (file image)
Last season, the flu caused between 37.4 million and 42.9 million illnesses and between 36,400 and 61,200 deaths, according to preliminary data from the CDC.
But the 2019-20 flu season started earlier than the annual epidemic has begun in the last 10 years and is circulating quickly.
‘Last year marked the longest flu season in a decade, and now we are seeing this year’s flu season off to an alarmingly fast start,’ said Rep Diana DeGette (D-CO), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations panel.
Health officials say influenza B is more common this season than influenza A and is responsible for 21 of the 32 pediatric deaths.
Panic has spread as frightening accounts of just how hard the flu is hitting the youngest Americans especially.
One four-year-old girl in Iowa was left blind after a severe bout with the flu last week.
Earlier today, a child in Wisconsin under 10 years old died while on the way to the hospital, the Associated Press reported.
It’s not immediately clear if the Wisconsin child had received the flu vaccine, but the four-year-old Iowa girl had not.
The Wisconsin death has not yet been confirmed by the CDC, but, if it is, it will be the 33rd child death this season.
Doctors are stressing to the public that the best way to protect yourself and your family is to get a flu shot.
The CDC recommends getting the vaccine either in the form of a shot or a nasal spray. For those who choose to go with the injectable, there are two options.
First is the trivalent vaccine, which protects against two influenza A strains, H1N1 and H3N2, and one influenza B strain.
Second is the quadrivalent flu vaccine, protects against the same strains as the trivalent vaccine, as well as an extra influenza B virus.
The nasal spray, FluMist, uses live, weakened viruses which are meant to teach the body to recognize and ward off flu strains if you become infected.
The only group of people who are ineligible for the vaccine – shot and spray – are babies under six months old.
Doctors say taking at-home preventative measures is just as important as getting the vaccine such as washing your hands, not touching your face, coughing into your elbow or a tissue and staying home if you are ill.