Health

Flu season gains strength, but may be approaching a peak

The CDC says 38 states had high or very high levels of respiratory illness that included a cough or other symptoms.

Doses of flu vaccine
Mark J. Terrill / AP
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Flu season is gaining strength, U.S. health officials said Friday.

Data posted on Friday, that covers the week between the Christmas and New Year holidays, shows 38 states had high or very high levels of respiratory illness that included a cough or other symptoms. The count is up from 31 states the week before.

Flu is likely the most dramatically increasing of these infections, the Centers for Disease Control said Friday.

This flu season as a whole has an average intensity, but Alicia Budd, the team lead on the CDC's influenza National Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team, said "We expect it to be elevated for several more weeks."

Budd said illness reporting around the holidays can be less reliable due to high travel rates, closed schools and people who choose to tough out infections at home.

The CDC estimates that since October, flu has caused 10 million illnesses, hospitalized 110,000 people and caused 6,500 deaths.

More hospitals requiring masks as COVID-19, RSV and flu cases rise
More hospitals requiring masks as COVID-19, RSV and flu cases rise

More hospitals requiring masks as COVID-19, RSV and flu cases rise

New York City has resumed a mask mandate for its 11 public hospitals. Los Angeles and Massachusetts saw similar measures.

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The good news is that this season's flu shots appear to be a good match to prevalent strains.

Flu infections typically peak for the season between December and February. Officials predict infections are about to peak and begin their annual decline.

Infections from COVID-19, meanwhile, are not causing as many hospitalizations this year as they have in years past — but the count is still higher than the totals caused by influenza.

The CDC estimates a variant called JN.1 is responsible for close to two-thirds of current COVID-19 infections. Officials say it is not likely to cause any more severe infection than earlier variants.