Atlanta—Seasonal influenza activity continues to be high across the country, according to the CDC.

As of early December, of all the influenza A viruses detected and subtyped during week 48, 76% have been influenza A(H3N2) and 24% have been influenza A(H1N1). The CDC also advised in its FluView update that more than 20 children had died of the flu so far in the season.

Overall, there had been an estimated 13 million illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations, and 7,300 deaths from flu, which arrived earlier than usual.

“The cumulative hospitalization rate in the FluSurv-NET system is higher than the rate observed in week 48 during every previous season since 2010-2011,” the public health officials pointed out.

Furthermore, the number of flu hospital admissions reported in the Health & Human Services (HHS) Protect system increased during Week 48 compared to Week 47, they added.

The good news is that the majority of influenza viruses tested are in the same genetic subclade as and antigenically similar to the influenza viruses included in this season’s influenza vaccine. In addition, the CDC reported that all viruses collected and evaluated this season have been susceptible to influenza antivirals.

The CDC stated an annual vaccine is the best way to protect against influenza. The vaccine not only helps prevent infection, but it also can also prevent serious outcomes in people who get sick with flu, despite the vaccine. Everyone aged 6 months and older is advised to get a flu vaccine annually.

What makes this flu season so complex is that multiple respiratory viruses are currently cocirculating with influenza. Public health officials say that testing is important to determine appropriate treatment.

“As we are all aware, nationally, we are seeing elevated levels of respiratory viruses including RSV [respiratory syncytial virus], flu, and COVID-19,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said at a recent briefing. “Especially for RSV  and flu, these levels are higher than we generally see this time of year.”

Dr. Walensky pointed out that levels of flu-like illness—which includes a fever and a cough or sore throat—are “at either high or very high levels in 47 jurisdictions and that is up from 36 jurisdictions just last week.”

She added that influenza hospital admissions reported through HHS’s hospital surveillance system, “…which were already high for this time of year have nearly doubled during the last reporting period. Compared to the week prior hospitalizations for flu continue to be the highest we have seen at this time of year in a decade, demonstrating the significantly earlier flu season we are experiencing.”

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