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Winter flu season is here early, could be intense

Officials are saying that the type of virus that is causing most of the illnesses right now is a surprise version.

WASHINGTON — Citing health officials, the Associated Press is reporting that the winter flu season in the U.S. is starting at its earliest point in over 15 years. Officials say there is a chance this flu season could peak much earlier than usual. According to health experts, the last flu season that started this early was from 2003-2004, and it was bad. 

CDC official Scott Epperson told the AP, "It really depends on what viruses are circulating. There’s not a predictable trend as far as if it’s early it’s going to be more severe, or later, less severe."

Officials are saying that the type of virus that is causing most of the illnesses right now is a surprise version that doesn't usually have this sort of intensity until much later in the season. 

Centers for Disease Control numbers show hospitalization rates this season are similar to those seen at this time during other recent seasons. 

Most of the high intensity patient reports have come from six southern states, from Texas to Georgia, CDC numbers show, and officials are saying the winter flu season could peak this month. Flu season usually hits its height in February, so some doctors are preparing for the worst. 

Credit: Centers for Disease Control

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CDC reports show 170 million doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed, and recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a vaccinated each season to protect against the influenza virus.

4.8 percent of deaths so far have been attributed to pneumonia and influenza this flu season, which is below the epidemic threshold of 6.8 percent. One new influenza-associated pediatric death which occurred during this 2019-2020 flu season was reported to the CDC this week, making the total six during the fourth week into this flu season.