Most Active Early Flu Season Since 2003 is ‘Wreaking Havoc' in The U.S.

The 2019-2020 flu season follows two straight unusually bad flu seasons. Unfortunately, two key indicators show this year could be more of the same.

First, "This season is off to an early start, earlier than any season this decade," Dr. Bryan Lewis, professor at the University of Virginia, who works in a research partnership with AccuWeather, wrote in an email. "You have to go back to 2003 before you have as much active transmission in early December as we have now."

Nationwide, 3.5 percent of patient visits reported through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet) were due to influenza-like illness (ILI). This percentage is above the national baseline of 2.4 percent for the fourth straight week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last year, levels of ILI in the U.S. were at or above-baseline normal for 21 straight weeks, the longest above-baseline flu season since the CDC started keeping such comparable recordsin 2007-2008.

However, this highly active season is already five weeks ahead of last year's first above-baseline week, which didn't occur until week 49. More than half of the states in the U.S. are at the highest level in the last decade for this particular week.

The second unique characteristic of the 2019-2020 flu season is Influenza B is appearing uncharacteristically early and at unusually intense levels, according to the University of Virginia doctors partnered with AccuWeather. Influenza B still causes significant illness in those stricken; however, hospitalizations and death are less frequent than with Influenza A.

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