The number of people sick with the flu is continuing to climb, and transmission is now the most intense it has been since the 2009 pandemic, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said Monday.
The federal agency continued to track and respond to the epidemic despite the government shutdown. Its flu laboratories were working Monday, and “we are continuing to look at data we have received from states so that public-health officials can know about their community and influenza,” CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald said in an interview.
CDC officials said earlier this month that they had hoped flu cases were peaking. But the percentage of outpatient visits for flu-like illnesses climbed in the week ending Jan. 13, according to the agency’s weekly update, released Friday. The level surpassed every season except 2009-2010, when a new strain of flu to which no one had immunity swept around the world.
The influenza virus behind most infections this year, called H3N2, is notorious for causing bad flu seasons, and the flu is widespread in every state in the continental U.S. The District of Columbia is an exception. H3N2 usually hits the very young and elderly hard; this season, many people between the ages of 50 and 65 are also sick, for reasons that aren’t clear. “People in that age range should be very careful to protect themselves from being exposed,” Dr. Fitzgerald said.