Flu Activity Is ‘Low’ in U.S., CDC Says

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Only one state saw a ‘high’ level of flu-like activity in the most recent week for which data is available.

Flu activity is considered “low” nationally, according to the most recent update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall this season, the CDC estimates there have been at least 25 million illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 deaths from flu. These low-end figures are within historical rangesfrom 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 Feb. 10 shows that New Mexico was the only state to experience a “high” level of influenza-like illness activity during the week ending Feb. 4. Another five states experienced “moderate” activity, up a tick from four the prior week. A majority of states (33) experienced “minimal” activity, according to the CDC.

“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. The CDC also notes that the number of sites providing relevant data can vary each week, necessitating weekly baseline adjustments.

Almost all states saw decreases or no change in numeric levels between the weeks ending Jan. 28 and Feb. 4. Oklahoma fell seven levels, marking the most substantial decline and resulting in its activity classification changing from “very high” to “low.” West Virginia and Kentucky fell three levels down to “minimal” activity. Meanwhile, South Carolina’s status shifted from “low” to “moderate” as it increased two numeric levels. Seven states saw an increase of just one numeric level. Among them, Florida was the only one to see any classification change – from “low” to “moderate.”

Preliminary outpatient surveillance data available through the CDC shows that 2.6% of roughly 2 million patient visits to a health care provider reported during the week ending Feb. 4 were for influenza-like illness. That’s stable from the week prior when the share was 2.7%, but still slightly above a national baseline of 2.5%. The CDC also reports that out of 10 regions of the U.S., seven saw outpatient illness percentages below their respective baselines, while three regions that encompass states such as New JerseyVirginia and California were above their respective baselines.

Meanwhile, across thousands of hospitals reporting to the health care data network HHS Protect, around 2,100 people with influenza were hospitalized during the week ending Feb. 4, down from more than 2,600 the previous week. 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. The weekly rate dropped from 0.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 population to 0.3 per 100,000, with the most recent cumulative figure at 59.2 hospitalizations per 100,000 for the season. Notably, hospitalizations due to the flu can vary by race.

A Flourish data visualization

During the week ending Feb. 4, the CDC received reports of nine pediatric flu-associated deaths, bringing the current total to 106 for the 2022-2023 season. Historically, most recent seasons prior to the COVID-19 pandemic saw more than 100 pediatric deaths by the end of the season.

Though data points to it waning, a “tripledemic” of respiratory viruses – with the flu, COVID-19 and RSV all circulating – has recently strained hospital capacity. 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.