CDC Provides Estimates on How Many Patients Have Had Flu So Far This Season

JANUARY 14, 2019
Between 6 and 7 million people have been sick with influenza so far during the 2018-2019 season, according to data released on Jan. 11, 2019 from the CDC.

Up to half of those who have or had influenza have sought medical care for their illness, and between 69,000 and 84,000 people have been hospitalized from flu.  

These data are derived using the same mathematical model used to generate previous end-of-season estimates, but this is the first time the data are being released during the season, CDC officials said. Calculations are based on adjusted rates of laboratory-confirmed, influenza-associated hospitalizations collected through a surveillance network that covers approximately 8.5% of the U.S. population, or about 27 million people.

Based on this methodology, CDC estimates that as of Jan. 5:
  • 6.2 to 7.3 million people have been sick with flu,
  • 2.9 to 3.5 million people have been to their physician because of flu, and
  • 69,300 to 83,500 people have been hospitalized because of flu.
These estimates are cumulative and will be updated over the course of the annual flu season on Fridays.

CDC’s weekly FluView reports when and where influenza activity is occurring, which influenza viruses are circulating and reports the impact influenza is having on hospitalizations and deaths in the United States based on data collected from eight different surveillance systems. Data presented in FluView allow CDC to track flu activity, but do not provide exact case counts, with the exception of flu-associated pediatric deaths and human infections with novel influenza A viruses, which are nationally notifiable.

Each year seasonal flu places a significant burden on the health of people in the United States. These new in-season estimates fill out the picture of the burden of flu in the United States.

CDC continues to recommend flu vaccination as the best way to reduce the risk of flu and its potentially serious complications, including death in children. People who are very sick or who are at high risk of serious flu complications and get flu symptoms should see a health care provider early in their illness for possible treatment with a flu antiviral drug.

In addition to vaccination and appropriate use of antiviral drugs, CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs. Pharmacists are asked to remind patients who are sick with flu-like illness to encourage them to stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. 

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