As many as 7.3 million Americans have already fallen ill with the flu over the last three months, causing millions to seek medical treatment and an estimated 69,300 to 83,500 people to require hospitalization, according to a new report.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials released mid-season flu illness estimates for the first time late last week, indicating that updated numbers will be released every Friday throughout the annual flu season.
For the first time in history, the CDC is estimating the current impact of the flu by pulling data from various resources on a weekly basis to better inform the public how important it is to get vaccinated.
Previously, CDC officials would release the impacts of the flu at the end of each flu season. Alicia Fry, head of the CDC’s epidemiology and prevention branch of influenza, stated the preliminary numbers being released to the public will help people better understand the importance of vaccination, and how it can prevent serious complications.
Between October 1, 2018 and January 5, 2019, the flu estimates indicate 6.2 million to 7.3 million people have become sick, while 2.9 million to 3.5 million of those people have consulted with their doctor for flu symptoms. Additionally, 69,300 to 83,500 sickened patients have been hospitalized due to the flue.
The CDC’s weekly FluView reports on where influenza is actively occurring across the nation and which viruses are being recorded at hospitals. Although it does not provide exact case counts, the CDC is able to actively track flu activity which can be used to increase vaccination efforts.
Flu-related fatality data has not been released at this time, however officials stated the information will likely be published within the coming weeks, since determining the cause of a death takes longer than a diagnosis.
This year’s flu is being found widely spread across 30 states and is anticipated to last for several more weeks. Fry stated that although the season is not over, this year’s flu impact does not appear to be nearly as bad as last year’s.
CDC officials report last years flu season killed and hospitalized more people in the United States than any seasonal influenza in decades, sickening as estimated 49 million people, hospitalizing another 960,000 and causing approximately 80,000 deaths. The previous flu season reportedly cause the deaths of at least 185 children, whereas the CDC is aware of 16 pediatric deaths since October 1, 2018 to present.
Each year the CDC urges the public to get vaccinated with a flu shot. The shots can prevent infections and also reduce the severity of symptoms, including death from annual flu viruses. In addition to vaccinations and antiviral drugs, the CDC recommends people follow every day preventive actions to stop the spread of germs by covering your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and washing hands with soap and water regularly.