Science and Tech


Flu still surging across parts of the US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates at least 22 million Americans got the flu between Oct. 1 and Feb. 3.
Posted at 12:37 PM, Feb 14, 2024

Influenza cases tend to fall off by mid-February, but the virus is on the upswing and surging across parts of the country.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had forecast a decrease in cases in February, but the latest numbers show just the opposite. Flu-related hospitalizations are going down nationwide, but there are still high levels of infection.

The CDC estimates at least 22 million Americans got the flu between Oct. 1 and Feb. 3.

Hospitalization and death rates are down from prior weeks, but a quarter of a million people have been hospitalized since the start of the flu season while thousands have died, including 74 children.  

“Fifteen thousand Americans have already died of influenza this year — 15,000. And that's just in a relatively easy flu year, to be perfectly honest with you. And we're not done with it yet,” said Emily Landon, the chief health care epidemiologist at the University of Chicago. 

South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Wyoming have the highest levels of flu activity right now. 

CDC is reportedly considering shortening COVID-19 quarantine time
People wearing masks in New York in 2021.

CDC is reportedly considering shortening COVID-19 quarantine time

Health officials are considering a proposal that would allow people to leave isolation after they have been fever-free for 24 hours or more.


Landon says the numbers are stabilizing, with national data suggesting flu season peaked around late December. However, she cautions that there could be a second surge in February, fueled by low vaccination rates.

“I think it's really hard for people to understand really what the consequences are,” she said. “Even though it can take very tiny behavior changes to mitigate that tiny risk, our brains are sort of set up to either dismiss it or consider it as a giant threat.” 

Another factor in the widespread flu season is climate change, according to Marc Sala, an assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care in Northwestern Medicine. 

“We have warmer summers than we're used to dealing with and we all know that's going to have an impact on all sorts of infectious organisms,” he warned. “Some of this we're still trying to figure out, but as the as the winters are less predictable and COVID has settled out, we're dealing with new patterns.” 

Doctors recommend everyone over 6 months of age get this year’s flu vaccine. 

“I remain adamant that if you're going to prevent the worst outcomes, then you need the vaccines," Sala said. 

Medical professionals also suggest people routinely was their hands and stay home when sick.

Doctors say flu is most dangerous for children and the elderly, with symptoms beginning one to four days after infection and usually lasting around a week.