Linda Howard gets her flu shot from nursing student Elizabeth Wallace at the annual Free Flu Shot on Oct. 27 at Farragut Intermediate School in Knoxville, Tenn.(Photo: Michael Patrick, AP)
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
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
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.