The U.S. has experienced declining flu activity across the country, according to the most recent update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overall this season, the CDC estimates there have been at least 25 million illnesses, 270,000 hospitalizations and 17,000 deaths from flu. These low-end figures are within historical ranges from past seasons but have surpassed the numbers from last season, which saw an estimated 9 million illnesses, 100,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.
Preliminary CDC data accessed Jan. 20 shows that only four states – California, New Mexico, North Dakota and Texas – experienced a “high” level of influenza-like illness activity during the week ending Jan. 14 – down from the week before, when 18 states fell in that category. Another eight states experienced “moderate” activity, down from 15 states the prior week.
Twenty states experienced “minimal” activity during the week ending Jan. 14, according to the CDC.
Influenza-like illness refers to respiratory illness that includes a fever plus a cough or sore throat – not a confirmed case of the flu. These activity-level classifications correspond to 13 numeric levels and are based on percentages of outpatient visits due to this type of illness. They reflect the “intensity” of such illness activity and not geographic spread, according to the CDC, and the underlying data may “disproportionally represent certain populations,” affecting the “full picture” of activity for a state. The CDC also notes that the number of sites providing relevant data can vary each week, necessitating weekly baseline adjustments.
Almost all states saw decreases in numeric levels between the weeks ending Jan. 7 and Jan. 14. Wyoming fell seven levels, marking the most substantial decline and resulting in its activity classification changing from “high” to “minimal.” Maine, Nebraska and South Carolina each dropped five levels, downgrading their classifications from “high” to “low.” Kansas and Oregon were the only states to see increases, which shifted their statuses from “low” to “moderate.”
Preliminary outpatient surveillance data available through the CDC shows that 3.0% of roughly 2 million patient visits to a health care provider reported during the week ending Jan. 14 were for influenza-like illness. That’s a slight decrease from the week prior when the share was 4.0%, but still slightly above a national baseline of 2.5%. The CDC also reports that out of 10 regions of the U.S., the percentage of such visits decreased week over week in all regions.
Meanwhile, across thousands of hospitals reporting to the health care data network HHS Protect, around 6,000 people with influenza were hospitalized during the week ending Jan. 14, down from more than 12,500 the previous week. Preliminary hospitalization rates available through the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network also illuminate how the 2022-2023 flu season got off to an impactful early start, though the latest figures continue a downward trend. The weekly rate dropped from 2.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 population to 0.8 per 100,000, with the most recent cumulative figure sitting at 56.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 for the season. Notably, hospitalizations due to the flu can vary by race.
During the week ending Jan. 14, the CDC received reports of six pediatric flu-associated deaths, bringing the current total to 85 for the 2022-2023 season. Historically, most recent seasons prior to the COVID-19 pandemic saw more than 100 pediatric deaths by the end of the season.