As the flu season enters its most active period, early data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to a milder flu season than last year.
As many as 7.3 million people have been sick with the flu since the season began in October, with an estimated 69,000 to 84,000 people hospitalized for treatment, the CDC reported Friday.
The report was the first peek at data for the 2018-2019 season, which normally runs from October to late May.
In most parts of the country, most illnesses right now are being caused by a flu strain that leads to fewer hospitalizations and deaths than last year’s strain, according to CDC officials.
Vaccines also work better against it, said the CDC’s Dr. Alicia Fry, suggesting signs of a milder flu season.
“If (this strain) continues to be the predominant virus, that is what we’d expect,” said Fry, head of the epidemiology and prevention branch in the CDC’s flu division.
While any flu activity is alarming, the CDC says the overall hospitalization rate is 9.1 per 100,000. For the same week last season, the overall hospitalization rate was 30.5 per 100,000.
Last season, an estimated 49 million Americans got sick from the flu, 23 million went for medical care and 960,000 were hospitalized.
The CDC usually doesn’t issue current estimates until a flu season is over, but researchers have developed a model they believe is sound enough to use while the season is still going on, officials said.
One positive sign as flu season enters it’s worst period: More people have gotten their flu shots this year than last. By November 2018, the CDC estimated that 44.9 percent of adults had gotten vaccinated, while only 37. 1 percent had done so even by the end of the 2017-18 season.
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In the latest data, widespread influenza activity was reported in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.
Regional influenza activity was reported by Puerto Rico and Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Contributing: Associated Press