Flu hits 7.3 mil­lion peo­ple in US, but ex­perts ex­pect milder sea­son

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Milwaukee Wisconsin - Doug Stan­glin USA TO­DAY

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.

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