The flu has reached epidemic levels in the US, marking an earlier-than-usual arrival that follows warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that this season may be a severe one. The CDC reports that 15 children have already died from the flu this season. Widespread flu activity has also been reported in 36 states, with most of the others showing regional flu activity. The lighter activity is largely in western and noncontiguous states.
Widespread flu activity has been detected in 36 states
That the flu has reached epidemic status is not unexpected — this is a regular part of flu season — but it has reached epidemic levels somewhat earlier than it usually does. The last two flu seasons were declared to be epidemics in mid-January. The flu also leads to deaths each year, which is what the agency uses to determine epidemic status.
Earlier this month, the CDC said that the type of flu virus circulating this year typically lends to a more severe season. On top of that, about half of the viruses the CDC had been finding were drift variants from what this year's vaccine covers, potentially reducing its effectiveness. "Vaccination has been found to provide some protection against drifted viruses in past seasons," CDC directed Tom Frieden said at the time. "Also, vaccination will offer protection against other flu viruses that may become more common later in the season."