This year’s flu season is shaping up to become the worst in recent years, causing a record number of hospitalizations across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Federal officials don’t think the flu has peaked yet, and there may be several more weeks before the risk of flu or serious illness subsides.
“In the past week, we have seen increased influenza-like illness activity, more hospitalizations, and tragically, more flu-associated deaths in children and adults. And as of this week, overall hospitalizations are now the highest we’ve seen. Even higher than the 2014-’15, our previous high season,” CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., told reporters Friday during a media briefing.
In addition, she said, the agency continues to hear reports of crowded hospitals and shortages of antiviral medications and rapid influenza tests.
Last week alone there were 16 additional flu-related pediatric deaths for a total of 53 children who have died this season.
Dan Jernigan, M.D., director of the influenza division at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said that for the last three weeks 49 states reported widespread cases of the flu, numbers the agency has not seen in all the years it has collected data. One bright spot is in Oregon, which is reporting fewer cases of flu and hopefully an indication that influenza cases are on the decline in the West.
But federal and state data can lag by as much as two weeks, so Northwell Health in New York is using a biosurveillance system that tracks the flu in a 24-hour time frame. The technology highlights areas of New York that see spikes in flu activity so the organization can put additional resources in areas where more patients may seek care.