(NEXSTAR) – The 2022 flu season started early and viciously, especially in the South, according to tracking from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC lists seven states, plus Washington, DC, in the highest category for influenza activity, shown in purple on the map below. Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Virginia are all ranked in the “very high” category.
It’s not much better in Maryland and Texas, which are both in the second-worst category (brown on the CDC map).
Behind them are five more Auburn states: Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey and New Mexico.
Flu hospitalization rates haven’t been this high this early since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, according to the CDC. So far, an estimated 1,300 deaths from the flu are estimated, including at least three children.
Activity has increased over the past month. Less than three weeks ago, no states were in the “very high” categories.
All of this flu transmission is also happening earlier than usual – the winter flu season usually intensifies in December or January.
Things are better in the north; the Pacific Northwest, Upper Midwest, and New England all have states in the “minimal” category for influenza activity.
The CDC’s map is not based on confirmed lab tests for the flu, but rather on where people go to the doctor with flu-like symptoms (respiratory illness and fever, as well as a cough or sore throat). For this reason, the map “can capture patient visits due to other respiratory pathogens that cause similar symptoms,” the agency explains.
Flu season heats up as children’s hospitals reel from an onslaught of young patients with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. CDC tracking shows RSV cases have increased since September.
There may be good news: COVID-19 cases have trended downward and stabilized over the past three weeks, CDC’s Dr. Jose Romero said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.