Flu Season Begins Earlier Than Usual as It Harshly Hits Southern States, CDC Reports

"It's not too late to get vaccinated," the CDC says. "Flu vaccination is the best way to reduce the risk from flu and its potentially serious complications."

Seasonal cold
Photo: Getty

Flu season is now in full swing — hitting the U.S. sooner than it has in more than a decade.

According to new influenza forecasting done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2019-2020 installment of the winter flu has begun a month sooner than usual, and it is expected to potentially hit its peak earlier as well, likely between now and the month of February, when it typically hits its apex.

“The flu season is just getting started,” the CDC said. “Elevated flu activity is expected to continue for weeks.”

Already severely affected by the flu are southern states, with Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina all categorized as high levels of reported flu-like illnesses at the end of November. Northern states like Ohio and Michigan have experienced minimal cases.

As far as estimated flu activity, it is said to be widespread in 16 states, including New York, Nevada and California.

Sick woman with flu

The last flu season to begin this early was 2003-2004, the Associated Press reported, which proved to be a harsh year for illnesses, though it’s too soon to judge how this winter will shake out.

“It really depends on what viruses are circulating. There’s not a predictable trend as far as if it’s early it’s going to be more severe, or later, less severe,” Scott Epperson, who studies flu trends for the CDC, told the AP.

According to the CDC, there have already been 1.7 million to 2.5 million flu illnesses reported nationwide between October and November. Of those, there have been at least 16,000 hospitalizations and up to 2,400 deaths.

And the time to get vaccinated hasn’t yet passed, the CDC assured.

“It’s not too late to get vaccinated,” the agency says. “Flu vaccination is the best way to reduce the risk from flu and its potentially serious complications.”

The last two flu seasons were difficult in the U.S. The 2017-2018 season was the deadliest in four decades, according to the CDC, with nearly 80,000 deaths. Last year was milder, with 61,200 deaths, but it was the longest flu season in 10 years, lasting from November to April.

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