The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made it official on Friday: This year’s severe flu season is an epidemic . It passed the threshold last week, with 7.3 percent of deaths from influenza or pneumonia. Forty-seven states are now reporting widespread activity after the season got to an especially early start.
Vaccination remains the “best tool we have to prevent the flu,” and the best time to receive a vaccine is before the season even starts. Even so, well over half of Americans neglect to get their flu shots. With the season well underway, some areas are reporting vaccine shortages.
One interesting measurement of flu season trends is Google search data for flu-related terms, which has skyrocketed in recent weeks. But this chart from the CDC, showing hospital visitors with flu-like symptoms, might provide a more appropriate context: