It is not clear why this flu season is so intense and so unusually widespread - causing wide swaths of misery in 48 states and high levels of illness in 43 of them as of February 3.
That was the sobering assessment offered Friday by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Acting Director Dr. Anne Schuchat. ILI in the past five seasons has been elevated for between 11 and 20 weeks, and it is only week 11 right now.
"We're only at week 11 now, so we could potentially see several more weeks of increased flu activity", Schuchat said.
One of the worst flu outbreaks in the United States in almost a decade worsened last week and will likely linger for several weeks, causing more deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday. OR and Hawaii, the exceptions, both recorded regional activity for the fifth week of the year. Schuchat noted that overall hospitalizations are now significantly higher than what has been seen for this time of year since CDC's current tracking system began almost a decade ago in 2010, and "the rate is approaching the final rate of hospitalizations that we observed at the end of the active 2014-2015 flu season".
In the, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 10 new child deaths and the highest flu hospitalization rate since the agency started keeping comparable records in 2010.
"The overall percent of specimens testing positive for influenza was rising sharply through late December and has been holding roughly steady for the past three weeks at about 26 percent positive", noted Budd.
"The previously recorded high for that was 7.6 percent for a non-pandemic year in 2003-2004", Schuchat said.
Levels of illness, based on outpatient visits and visits to emergency rooms, are "now as high as we observed at the peak of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic season", Schuchat said.
"In 2014-15, that number was 35.1 per 1,000".
"We recognize that this issue is personal to so many families and that there is a lot of fear and alarm", she said. During an intense season like this one, it is possible to get an infection with both A-strain viruses and B-strain viruses at the same time, and people definitely get sick twice from the flu, with first one strain and then another, she said. "Our virologists and others around the country are studying the virus to see whether there are other explanations for the more severe disease we're seeing".
"It's not uncommon for B strains to increase later in the season", Schuchat said.
Most of Indiana's flu-related deaths this season have involved people age 65 and older.
Despite the severity of the season, the American Lung Association says there are things you can do to avoid being stricken by the virus.
"Anybody who gets a fever, cough, cold, sneezing, anything, they're all coming in".
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