According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly report, two-thirds of states nationwide report “very high” or “high” levels of flu-like activity.
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, around this time last year, all states reported “low” or “moderate” levels of activity, with only New Mexico and Rhode Island reporting “high” levels.
The data comes after experts warned that the flu season has started earlier than usual, with cases similar to those typically seen in winter and hospital beds filling up quickly.
So far this flu season has seen at least 6.2 million illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from the flu, according to CDC estimates.
Just a week earlier, as of the week ending Nov. 12, flu had reported an estimated 4.4 million sick, 38,000 hospitalizations, and 2,100 deaths.
The hospitalization rate, which stands at 11.3 per 100,000, remains the highest for this time in the season since the 2010–11 season, as far as statistics are available.
While flu-like illness is at its highest level in recent memory at this point in the season, the rate of increase has slowed over the past two weeks.
In addition, five influenza-related pediatric deaths were reported this week, out of a total of 12 child deaths reported so far this season.
In addition, CDC reports that most of the flu viruses tested matched well with this season’s flu vaccine.
Among adults ages 18 and older, by mid-October — the latest date for which data is available — 26.3% had been vaccinated against the flu compared to 23% last year, according to the CDC dashboard.
The vaccination rate in children 6 months and older is about the same: 35.4% vaccinated in the week ending November 5 compared to 35.3% in the same time a year earlier.
However, only 36.8% of pregnant people had received the flu shot at the end of October 2022, compared to 48.6% of pregnant people who had received the flu shot at the end of October 2021.
The early flu season is also concerning as the rise in childhood respiratory illnesses already fills 78% of children’s beds, according to Health Department data & Human Services.