The U.S. government is sounding the alarm over seasonal flu, saying it is on the rise and spreading widely in more than three dozen states.
Eight children have died from it since the start of October, and the proportion of patients seeing the doctor because of flu-like symptoms has spiked above the national average, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The flu is more severe than a common cold and marked by fever or chills, a sore throat, body aches and other symptoms. Children, pregnant women, people older than 65 and anyone with a chronic medical condition are especially at risk of developing serious complications from the virus.
Flu season in the U.S. begins about October or November and peaks from December to March, before winding down by spring.
More than 144 million doses of the flu vaccine had been distributed in the U.S. through Jan. 13. But the CDC said people who haven’t gotten the shot should still get vaccinated, given the virus’s footprint across the U.S.
Puerto Rico and 37 states say the flu is widespread, while the remaining states and D.C. said the virus is a “regional” or “local” problem, the next steps down in severity.
Half of the eight pediatric deaths related to flu occurred in the southeastern U.S., while the others were scattered across geographic zones that span the Midwest, southwestern states and Hawaii and Guam.
The U.S. Virgin Islands is the only place in the country reporting zero activity.