If you haven't gotten your annual flu shot yet, you should consider getting one ASAP. The number of seasonal flu cases in the United States has been higher than the national average for six weeks straight, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There's more: In the first week of 2017, the number of deaths caused by influenza and pneumonia reached epidemic levels, and a total of eight children have died from the virus since the start of flu season in October, the CDC reports.
New York City as well as 10 states — Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, New Jersey, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee and Louisiana — reported higher-than-average numbers of people visiting their doctors with flu-like symptoms, and widespread flu activity was reported in 37 states as of January 21.
Since the start of this flu season, there have been approximately 15 flu-related hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States, the CDC reports, while the rate at this time last flu season was approximately two flu-related hospitalizations per 100,000 people.
The age group with the highest rate of hospitalization was adults 65 years and older, followed by adults between 50 and 63 years old, and children under the age of 4.
While "hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu every year," according to the CDC, it's not too late to get the flu vaccine. For more information, contact your doctor or visit cdc.gov/flu.