CDC Says: Flu Activity is ‘Low’ in U.S.
Flu activity remains “low” nationally, according to the most recent update from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The CDC estimates that at least 26 million illnesses, 290,000 hospital admissions, and 18,000 flu-related deaths have occurred this season overall. These low-end figures are within historical ranges from past seasons but have surpassed the numbers from last season, which saw an estimated 9 million illnesses, 100,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.
Preliminary CDC data accessed March 15 shows that New Mexico was the only state to experience a “high” level of influenza-like illness activity during the week ending March 4. Another three states – California, New Jersey and Virginia – experienced “moderate” activity according to the CDC. A majority of states (36) experienced “minimal” activity.
“Influenza-like illness” refers to respiratory illness that includes a fever plus a cough or sore throat – not a confirmed case of the flu. Activity-level classifications correspond to 13 numeric levels and are based on percentages of outpatient visits due to this type of illness. They reflect the “intensity” of such illness activity and not geographic spread, according to the CDC, and the underlying data may “disproportionally represent certain populations,” affecting the “full picture” of activity for a state. Additionally, according to the CDC, weekly baseline adjustments are necessary because the number of sites providing pertinent data can vary week to week.
The weeks ending in February saw drops in nearly all states or no change in the numeric levels. 25 and March 4. Utah and Illinois each fell two levels down to “minimal” activity. Meanwhile, Mississippi and Oklahoma each rose two levels, shifting their activity classification from “minimal” up to “low.”
Preliminary outpatient surveillance data available through the CDC shows that 2.4% of roughly 2.2 million patient visits to a health care provider reported during the week ending The date of March 4 was for influenza-like illness. That is a fractionally lower share than the previous week, when it was 2.6%, and a fractionally lower than the national baseline of 2.5%. The CDC also reports that out of 10 regions of the U.S., eight saw outpatient illness percentages below their respective baselines, while two regions that encompass states such as New Jersey and Colorado were above their respective baselines.
Meanwhile, across thousands of hospitals reporting to the health care data network HHS Protect, around 1,400 people with influenza were hospitalized during the week ending March 4, down from over 1,600 the week prior. Preliminary hospitalization rates available through the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network also illuminate how the 2022-2023 flu season got off to an impactful early start, though the latest figures continue a downward trend. With the most recent total of 60 hospitalizations per 100,000 for the season, the weekly rate decreased from 0.2 to 0.1 per 100,000 of the population. Notably, hospitalizations due to the flu can vary by race.
During the week ending March 4, the CDC received reports of eight pediatric flu-associated deaths, bringing the current total to 125 for the 2022-2023 season. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, most recent seasons typically ended with more than 100 pediatric fatalities.
To help prevent illness, hospitalization and death, the CDC recommends most people receive a flu vaccine, and offers a tool to help find local options.