NEW YORK. The US flu season continues to get worse.
On Friday, health officials said 7.5% of outpatient medical visits last week were due to flu-like illnesses. This is the same as the peak of the 2017-2018 flu season, and more than any subsequent season.
The annual winter flu season usually starts in December or January, but this season started early and was complicated by the simultaneous spread of other viruses.
The measurement of traffic in doctors’ offices is based on reports of symptoms such as cough and sore throat, not laboratory-confirmed diagnoses. Thus, this may include other respiratory conditions.
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This makes it difficult to compare with flu seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic. Other years also didn’t see this year’s unusually strong wave of RSV or respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of cold symptoms that can be serious for infants and the elderly.
Meanwhile, 44 states reported high or very high flu activity last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
This may not bode well for the near future. Experts say it is likely that during the Thanksgiving holiday and at crowded airports, respiratory viruses were more likely to spread.
To date, the dominant influenza strain is the type commonly associated with higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths, especially among people aged 65 years and older.
The CDC estimates that there have been at least 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 flu deaths this season. At least 14 children were among the dead.
Flu shots are recommended for almost all Americans at least 6 months of age.
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