t’s too soon to say the flu season has peaked, but it’s at least possible it may have plateaued.
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Friday, show the percentage of people going to a doctor for an influenza-like illness (most of which is likely flu during peak flu season) was 7.5 percent, just under the rate of 7.7 percent for the week ending Feb. 3. It marks the first week-by-week decline since the flu season began.
At the same time, the number of states reporting heavy traffic among patients with flu-like symptoms remained steady at 43.
The data give hope that the worst of this year’s flu season might be over.
It has been a severe flu season, and one that started early. At the end of last week, the rate of flu hospitalization was nearly 68 people per 100,000. That tops the rate of 64.2 per 100,000 in the 2014-2015 season, which until now has been the season with the highest rate since the current system of tracking of flu hospitalizations was adopted in 2010.
The influenza A virus H3N2 has caused the lion’s share of the illness in most parts of the country this year.
Estimates released earlier this week by the CDC showed that this year’s flu vaccine did not fare well against that virus. Three-quarters of people who got a flu shot this year were not protected H3N2; against all viruses, the flu vaccine proved 36 percent effective.
The flu is particularly hard on children and the elderly. This week’s CDC data show another 22 children have died of the flu this season, bringing the total to 84 so far.