Positive flu tests dropped 8.0 percentage points while visits to healthcare providers for influenza-like illness (ILI) grew by 0.8, likely due to the the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the CDC’s Weekly FluView Report for Week 12 (Mar 15-21).

So far, the CDC estimates that there have been as many as 39 million flu illnesses with 400,000 hospitalizations and 24,000 deaths due to flu complications.

According to the CDC, states across the country are seeing a collective decline in laboratory-confirmed flu cases. The percentage of respiratory samples that tested positive for flu dropped to 6.9% for the week ending with March 21, down from 14.9% during the previous week.

Despite the fall in verified flu cases, the public continues to visit healthcare providers for flu-like illnesses in greater numbers. Over the previous week, latest CDC data shows a 0.8% hike in people visiting their physicians’ or other medical facilities for flu-like symptoms.

Across the country, 6.4% of patient visits during the sample week were attributed to influenza-like illnesses. This percentage is above the national baseline of 2.4%, according to the report from the CDC.

As the flu season begins to slow, influenza A (H1N1) viruses have now become the most prevalent strain. Of the 19,543 laboratory-confirmed flu cases this season, 72.1% were associated with the influenza A virus, according to data collected from The Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network.

According to the CDC, influenza-associated hospitalization rates for the US population are notably higher than most recent seasons. Hospitalization rates for certain age groups are the highest on record, including children up to age 4-years-old, and adults between the ages of 18-49.

A great number of children have died from flu complications. This season, 155 influenza-associated deaths in children have been reported by the CDC, a number that is higher than what was recorded at the same time in every season since reporting began in 2004-05, except for during the H1N1 pandemic.

Currently, flu-like illnesses in Washington DC, New York City, Puerto Rico, and 34 states, remain high. Florida, Hawaii, Alaska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Delaware are all experiencing low activity.

Image credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention