The nation's flu season has begun gaining momentum, with the proportion of flu-related doctor visits reaching a nine-year high for this time of year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting.
The CDC's FluView survey reports that flu activity "increased substantially" in the week ending Nov. 24, the most recent data available. "Elevated" levels of flu-like illnesses have been found in five of 10 regions of the USA.
The biggest increases were in the South, where Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas experienced what are considered high flu numbers, the CDC says. Much of the Midwest also was seeing elevated numbers. Nationally, the percentage of respiratory tests found to be positive for the flu virus during the week rose to 15.2% -- relatively elevated for this time of year, the CDC says.
The percentage of deaths from pneumonia and flu was 6.3% for the week, below what the CDC considers an epidemic rate of 6.7%. No new pediatric flu deaths were reported, and only two have been reported thus far this season.
Later today, the CDC will provide mid-season figures on U.S. influenza activity and vaccination rates and announce this season's National Influenza Vaccination Week taking place this week. An annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses, the CDC says.