How Does the 2018-2019 Flu Season Compare to Last Year's Deadly Season?
The Centers for Disease Control released information and numbers on the effects of this year's flu season
The Centers for Disease Control are warning that this year’s flu season is just beginning to ramp up, but hospitalization and death rates still remain well below last year’s deadly averages.
The CDC estimates that so far in this year’s flu season — from Oct. 1 to Jan. 19 — there have been 9.8 million to 11.4 million flu illnesses, 4.6 million to 5.4 million flu medical visits and 113,000 to 136,000 hospitalizations related to the flu.
These estimates are preliminary and are based on the CDC’s weekly influenza surveillance reports.
The CDC added that the total number of deaths during this flu season so far cannot be calculated: “Estimates of flu-related deaths will be provided at a later time, when there is sufficient data to support a more precise estimate for that outcome.”
At the beginning of this season, CDC experts said they believed the 2018-2019 season would be milder nationwide.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re seeing more encouraging signs than we were early last year,” Dr. Daniel Jernigan, a CDC flu expert, said in September.
Earlier this month, the CDC announced that the flu season was starting to ramp up and was widespread in 24 states.
Hospitalization rates also went up, particularly for children aged 0 to 4, though they still remain comparatively low compared to last year’s season. The death rates were also low as of early January.
RELATED VIDEO: Here’s What You Need to Know If You Get the Flu
To prevent the flu, Dr. Travis Stork, an ER physician, host of The Doctors and a member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad, suggests getting the flu vaccine and focusing on preventative measures, like skipping handshakes and hugs.
“During cold and flu season, it’s not rude!” he reassures.
Getting the flu shot and staying home if you’re sick are two of the most important ways to reduce transmission, according to the CDC, who also adds that it’s important to wash your hands frequently, stay hydrated, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wipe down surfaces that may have come into contact with contagion, as flu germs can live on them for up to 24 hours.
Stork also echoes the CDC’s suggestions of washing your hands often with soap and water and regularly disinfecting phones, keyboards and door handles, also advising being extra focused on getting enough sleep, staying active and eating well.