Flu season has picked up in recent weeks, and officials estimate that between 6.2 and 7.3 million people have gotten sick since October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday.
The agency’s data, which encompasses Oct. 1, 2018 to Jan. 5, 2019, shows half of those who got sick went to see the doctor, and that between 69,300 to 83,500 people have been hospitalized.
Officials are still evaluating how severe this year’s flu season will be compared to other years’. It was off to a slow start but has accelerated in recent weeks, with local reports of deaths. Roughly 200,000 people are hospitalized on average with the flu every year, and the season can last as late as May.
CDC officials say that it’s still not too late to get the flu vaccination, and reminded people that the illness can be deadly. Doctors typically give patients antiviral medication when they get sick, which shortens the amount of time that they have symptoms such as vomiting, coughing, sneezing, fever, chills, and runny nose. Symptoms for the flu can worsen to pneumonia or a sinus infection.
Every season, officials use a mathematical model to assess the flu season, which aren’t exact but use lab-confirmed tests and collect data on 27 million people to assess how many people might have gotten sick.
Beginning this week, the CDC will be releasing estimates every Friday.
Last year’s flu season was particularly dire. The vaccine wasn’t very effective and a particular flu strain circulated that tends to send people to the hospital with grave illness. Federal data show that last year more than 80,000 people died from the flu and its complications, and an additional 900,000 were hospitalized. Of the deaths from last year’s flu season, a record 180 were children and the majority of them were not vaccinated.