A government report released on Friday, Feb. 9 shows that one out of every 13 hospital visits last week was for fever, cough, and other symptoms that point to the flu. That's tied to the highest level seen in the United States during the swine flu nine years ago.
The flu season, which typically begins during December and peaks months later in February, started very early and was already widespread in various states by December 2017. Many thought the flu season hit peak levels in earlier this January, but the numbers continued to rise.
"Flu is incredibly difficult to predict. We don't know if we've hit the peak yet," said Anne Schuchat, the CDC's acting director.
Deadly Flu Season
Experts are still trying to determine why this year's flu season has been particularly abysmal. They're surprised by its intensity and persistence, and the fact that it has hospitalized far more people than other more common types flu ever had. It's possible the vaccines aren't working as efficiently as they could — data on that should become available next week.
Because the current flu season is so nasty, Schuchat said, "We are on track to break recent records."
According to the CDC's weekly flu report, 48 states are still reporting widespread influenza outbreaks, which is every state save for Hawaii and Oregon. Across the country, the hospitalization rate for influenza is 59.9 for every 100,000 people. The rate is highest for individuals 65 years old and above, notably. Also, one out of every 10 people in the country died because of either the flu or pneumonia, according to Schuchat. She also said that more deaths will likely occur in the next few weeks.
The flu season has gotten so bad that one upset and sassy nurse uploaded a video to Facebook advising people to "wash your stinking hands," which went viral with millions of views.
So, what's the best way to prevent flu? Well, according to Schuchat, the best way to avoid having the flu is to receive vaccination, despite the current flu shot reportedly not being strong enough. Researchers say that this year's flu shot is 20 percent less efficient at protecting people from the flu. Even still, a little bit of protection is better than no protection at all, according to Schuchat.