Flu hits 7.3 million people in US, but experts expect milder season
As the flu season enters its most active period, early data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to a milder season than last year.
As many as 7.3 million people have fallen sick with the flu since the season began in October, the CDC reported Friday.
An estimated 69,000 to 84,000 have been hospitalized.
The report offered the first peek at data for the 2018-19 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 causes fewer hospitalizations and deaths than last year’s strain, according to CDC officials.
Vaccines also work better against it, the CDC’s Dr. Alicia Fry said, which suggests 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.
At this point last year, the overall hospitalization rate was 30.5 per 100,000.
One positive sign as flu season enters what is typically its worst period: More people have received flu shots this year than last.
By November 2018, the CDC estimated that 44.9 percent of adults had been vaccinated.
Only 37. 1 percent had done so even by the end of the 2017-18 season.