The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said during its latest reporting week that the flu is “widespread in most of the country.”
An estimated 6 to 7 million people have been sick with the flu so far this season, and between 69,000 and 84,000 have been hospitalized. Though these figures are high and the flu season has not yet peaked, this year’s flu season is unlikely to be as bad as last year’s unusually bad season.
In fact, while influenza-like-illnesses this time last year were sharply on the rise, eventually reaching levels last seen during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, the number of states experiencing high flu levels dropped last week compared to the week before.
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To identify the incidence of the flu in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the latest weekly influenza surveillance report prepared by the influenza division of the CDC. Influenza-like illness activity levels (minimal, low, moderate, and high) are based on the difference between current and off-season average proportions of outpatient visits to health providers for flu-like illnesses.
It is important to note that outbreaks occurring in a single city can cause a state to display high activity levels, and data collected may disproportionately represent certain populations within a state and therefore may not accurately capture influenza activity for the whole state.
The percentage of outpatient visits with flu-like illnesses so far this flu season (Oct. 1, 2017 through Jan. 5, 2019) was calculated by 24/7 Wall St. using data reported weekly to the CDC.
Activity levels for states are measured against regional off-season average patient visits for flu-like illnesses. Across the 10 geographical regions the CDC defines, these off-season baselines range from 1.1% of patients in the Seattle region (Idaho, Oregon, and Washington) to 3.1% in the New York region (New Jersey and New York). Activity levels are as of the first week of January, and measure the percentage of current outpatients reporting flu and flu-like illnesses compared to such reports over the past non-flu seasons. States with high activity levels are those where flu cases have exceeded the respective baseline by the most.
Each state’s 65 and over population was obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey.