Flu activity is now considered "widespread" in 47 states, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this morning.
Flu activity is considered "high" in 24 states and "moderate" in 16 states. Five states with "low" flu activity are Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Idaho and Alaska, and five states with "minimal" flu activity are California, Kentucky, Maine, Connecticut and Montana.
However, ABC News reported that there were five fewer states with "high" flu activity in this week's CDC report (which includes flu activity from Dec. 30 to Jan. 5) compared to the one from the end of December.
"It may be decreasing in some areas, but that's hard to predict," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said Friday morning, as reported by ABC News. "Trends only in the next week or two will show whether we have in fact crossed the peak."
The findings also show that deaths from pneumonia and flu are "slightly above the epidemic threshold," with 7.3 percent of all deaths occurring during that week-long period being caused by flu or pneumonia.
Since Oct. 1, there have been 3,710 people hospitalized because of the flu. According to the new report, the proportion of people going to the doctor for flu-like illness from Dec. 30 to Jan. 5 was 4.3 percent, which is higher than normal.
There were two deaths in kids from flu or pneumonia during this period, bringing the total number of kids' deaths from flu or pneumonia to 20 so far this flu season, according to the CDC report. CNN reported that the number of adult deaths from flu is not officially tallied by the CDC.
As anyone who's ever gotten it can attest, flu manifests with fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose and fatigue. Even though the symptoms are unpleasant, the flu is generally not dangerous to most healthy people, who will recover within two weeks, the CDC reported. However, complications can occur -- like pneumonia, bronchitis or other infections. People who are at an increased risk for this include pregnant women, children, elderly people, and people who have other pre-existing conditions.
The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu shot every year to be protected from the flu, particularly people in high-risk groups. (However, some people should not get a flu shot, including people allergic to eggs and people who have had Guillain–Barré Syndrome; for more information on who should or shouldn't get the flu shot, click here.)
USA Today reported that the effectiveness of this year's flu vaccine is at 62 percent.
This year's flu season is one of the earliest in the U.S. over the last 10 years, Reuters reported.
A Gallup report also released today seems to reflect this trend, with 3.2 percent of people in the U.S. saying in December that they had the flu the day before. Gallup researchers noted that this percentage is typically not seen until February, and is a higher percentage for December since Gallup started tracking this in 2008.
And not only is it earlier than usual, it's more severe than usual, especially compared to last year's mild flu season. "In the past 10 years we have seen just two or three like" this year's flu season, CDC's Tom Skinner told the New York Daily News.
Last week, the city of Boston declared a "public health emergency" due to emergency rooms being packed with flu patients there, the Boston Globe reported.
Flu is so severe in one Oklahoma school district that it even canceled classes today because a quarter of the student body had been sickened with the virus, ABC News reported.
And not even celebrities can avoid it -- Betty White has confirmed through her representative that she is recovering from flu, People magazine reported.
Some parts of the country have already begun running out of the flu vaccine, including the city of Somerville in Massachusetts, according to the Boston Globe. Walgreens has also announced potential shortages at some of its locations around the U.S., NBC News reported.
Reuters reported yesterday that four out of six of the Fluzone flu vaccine formulations produced by Sanofi SA have already sold out. There are also some shortages of the children's version of Tamiflu (a liquid version made for kids).