Flu By the Numbers: January 13, 2024

Flu By the Numbers: January 13, 2024
13.01.2024

The CDC has started reporting influenza activity in the United States. In any flu season, the data that gets reported each week is preliminary and can change as new information becomes available.

As of January 13, the CDC is reporting that influenza-like illness activity throughout the United States is high and increasing in most of the country.

Some of these cases may not be the flu. There are also respiratory illnesses going around, including COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/pw8yq/210/ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Flu Testing

For the week ending January 6, 2024, clinical laboratories in the U.S. tested 107,334 specimens for flu viruses, of which 15,018 (14%) were positive. Among the positive results, influenza A accounted for 79.5% of positive flu cases, and influenza B accounted for 20.5%.

Public health laboratories in the U.S. also reported data about specimen testing to the CDC. Of the 3,028 samples tested, 1,036 were positive for the flu. Influenza A accounted for 80.1% of the positive flu cases, and influenza B accounted for 19.9%.

Influenza patterns vary according to the specific flu virus strains that are circulating in a given year, as well as human behavior. For example, some of the changes that the pandemic brought about—such as mask-wearing and social distancing—slowed down the flu spread last year.

Another factor that affects flu patterns is vaccination. Annual flu vaccines are a safe and effective way to help curb the spread of the flu and to prevent hospitalizations and deaths.

Hospitalizations and Deaths

So far this flu season, the CDC estimates that there have been at least:

  • 14 million illnesses
  • 150,000 hospitalizations
  • 9,400 deaths (including 40 children)
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How Many People Have Had Flu Shots?

The CDC also tracks how many flu vaccines have been given each year. It uses national surveys to estimate how many adults have gotten a flu shot as well as how many caregivers have vaccinated their children. While flu season is still ongoing, the numbers can change a lot.

Flu Shots 2023-2024

So far this year, over 155 million flu vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. As of the end of December 2023, coverage estimates for flu shots show that:

  • About 44.9% of adults aged 18 and older have been vaccinated
  • About 43.9% of children aged 6 months to 17 years old have been vaccinated
  • About 36.2% of pregnant people have been vaccinated

To get a sense of how many people in the U.S. are getting flu shots, the CDC compares the current rates (as percentages) to those from previous years.

Here’s what flu vaccine coverage looked like this time last year:

  • 48.9% of children
  • 44% of adults
  • 36% of pregnant people

Can I Get a Flu Shot and COVID Booster at the Same Time?

The CDC is recommending both annual flu shots and updated COVID booster shots. It is safe and effective to get both shots at the same time (coadministration) or you can get them on separate days.

If you get your flu shot and a COVID vaccine on the same day, the CDC says it is OK to get them in the same arm—the injections just need to be given about 1 inch apart. However, since some flu shots can make your arm sore, your provider may recommend you get the shots in different arms to help reduce soreness.

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What Information Do States Report?

The CDC tracks LIL activity levels in each state and presents a weekly flu surveillance report. LIL activity levels are defined as the following:

  • Minimal (levels 1-3)
  • Low (levels 4-5)
  • Moderate (levels 6-7)
  • High (levels 8-10)
  • Very High (levels 11-13)

State health departments track flu data provided by hospitals, clinics, clinical laboratories, and healthcare organizations. These reports can include information like the number of flu tests conducted, positivity rates, and the number of flu-like illnesses that providers saw in the patients they treated.

What Can The Data Tell Me About Flu Activities In My State?

Data on ILI activity can give you a sense of how many people have respiratory symptoms in your state.

If the ILI activity level where you live is high, it can be a sign that the flu is “going around” in your community. Having this information, you can take preventive steps, such as washing your hands frequently and getting a flu shot, to help reduce your risk of getting sick.

If you have flu-like symptoms, call your provider to see if you should have a test. They might want you to take antiviral medications such as Tamiflu to help reduce your symptoms. While you are sick, wear a mask and stay at home to help keep other people from catching the flu from you.

How Is Flu Data Different From COVID-19 Data?

The flu and COVID-19 are different illnesses, caused by different viruses, that may need different treatments. That said, the flu and COVID can have similar symptoms and can be hard to tell apart without a test.

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Some specimens tested for the flu can be tested for COVID at the same time. If a flu test is negative, a person might need to have a COVID test. It’s also possible for someone to have both COVID and the flu at the same time.

Testing people who are sick helps providers care for them, but it also helps us get a sense of how the viruses are circulating in our communities and how effective the vaccines for the viruses are.

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