CDC: Millions sickened with flu this season
More than 6 million people have been sick with influenza this season, according to data released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but Illinois numbers show this season, so far, hasn’t been as severe as last year’s.
The CDC estimates between 6.2 million and 7.3 million people across the country have been infected with the flu — defined as having a high fever, sore throat and other symptoms. Of those sickened, between 2.9 million and 3.5 million visited a doctor, and an estimated 69,000 to 83,500 were hospitalized, according to the CDC’s report. Those numbers are based on data from about 8.5 percent of the U.S. population, or about 27 million people.
This year, the CDC will track the flu during the course of the season, which began in October. Friday’s report includes illnesses contracted since the start of the season through Jan. 5 and will be updated each week. In previous years, the CDC has issued such data at the end of the season. However, the report did not provide data on pediatric deaths from influenza, which is another marker that health officials track.
In Illinois, the most recent data (which also goes through Jan. 5) shows 163 people have been hospitalized for influenza this season, and one child has died, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Only child deaths are reported.
The state also tracks people visiting doctor’s offices and clinics at sites throughout the state to record how many report influenzalike symptoms. Typically, at any point in the year, about 1.8 percent of patients will report those symptoms, said IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold. Last week that number was 2.93 percent.
In Illinois, reported influenza illnesses for this year are trending far below last year, when flulike illnesses peaked in mid- to late December with more than 6 percent of patients visiting physicians with those symptoms, Arnold said.
The CDC estimates about 49 million people were sickened with flu last season, deemed the deadliest in decades, including 960,000 people who were hospitalized. And nearly 80,000 died, including 180 children, according to the CDC.
Because the season can last into April and even as late as May, Arnold and the CDC’s recent report urge people to get immunized if they haven’t already done so.