"Unfortunately, it looks like this flu season continues to be particularly challenging", said Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About one in every 10 people who died last week nationwide succumbed to influenza in a season so fierce it is on track to be one of the worst flu epidemics on record, a top federal health official said Friday.
Flu season began in October.
Though the Northern border near Canada and a little bit along the West Coast show some signs of easing, there are "likely many more weeks to go", CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said.
The number of people hospitalized for flu-like illnesses is the highest the CDC has seen since starting its current tracking system in 2010. Almost all states are still reporting widespread flu activity, with less severe reports only coming from OR and Hawaii. Hawaii and OR are the only states reported as having lower levels of the virus.
"We can't predict how much longer the flu activity will persist".
Caused by viruses, flu is a contagious respiratory illness with mild to severe symptoms that can sometimes lead to death.
Schuchat noted that while influenza A (H3N2) remains the predominant strain, influenza B viruses are comprising about 30% of viruses reported in this week's data.
In the meeting, Azar discussed how he has been able to oversee the HHS' flu-related actions since being confirmed secretary of the HHS. The HHS also highlighted that more regions than usual are experiencing high levels of flu activity. Information about the effectiveness of this year's seasonal flu vaccine, she said, will be released soon.
"We recognize that this issue is personal to so many families and that there is a lot of fear and alarm", Schuchat said.
And while deaths among children - now at 63 kids - and adults have not been extremely high, it is possible they could increase in line with hospitalization rates, she said. This rate is higher than the anticipated 7.3% pneumonia- or flu-related deaths estimated for the week.
The CDC is also asking pharmacies to stock larger amounts of medication to address shortages in antiviral drugs.
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