It's been a severe flu season, and it might be about to get worse.
The hospitalization rate for 2018's fourth week of the flu season is about 51 people per 100,000. That's higher than the fourth week of the 2014-15 season, which had about 43 people hospitalized per 100,000. That flu season was considered "moderately severe" by the CDC.
The 2017-18 flu season "unquestionably falls into the bucket of a severe year," Fauci Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the United States' National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN.
"This year, 2017-18, for a strikingly long part of the season, completely parallels the 2014-15 year," he said. "Except that last week or the week before, 2014-15 started to plateau and turn around—but 2017-18 continued to go up."
"We very well may start to see it peak and turn around," said Fauci of the current flu season, which is rivaling recent years in intensity. "I hope it does, because if it doesn't it will be an even worse year than we're thinking."
This week, there were 16 flu-related deaths reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their weekly flu report on Friday. This brings the total number of pediatric flu-related deaths to 53 for the season, which began in October.
The report also noted that influenza activity is now widespread in 48 states and Puerto Rico. That's down from 49 states during the previous two weeks. Oregon joined Hawaii in lower activity levels for the week ending January 27.
"We have not hit our peak yet, unfortunately," said Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the CDC. "It is not going down yet. Really, the bottom line is there is still likely many more weeks to go."
"Caused by viruses, flu is a contagious, respiratory illness with mild to severe symptoms that can sometimes lead to death," explained CNN.
The CDC also reported that there is an increase in patients reporting influenza-like illness. 7.1% of doctors visits for the week ending January 27 up from 6.5% from the previous week.
"Overall, the data showed 17,024 new laboratory-confirmed cases of illness during the week ending January 27, bringing the season total to 126,117. These numbers do not include all the people who have had the flu, as many do not see a doctor when sick," reported CNN.
Nordlund shared that there have been shortages of the generic version of Tamiflu medicine to treat the flu. This is "a result of flu hitting everywhere all at once," she said.
Antivirals and flu tests are also in short supply in some area. US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb shared this in a short statement.
"However, at this time, there is no nationwide shortage of these products," said Gottlieb.
Flu vaccines also have been reported in short supply, but they are still available, said Gottlieb.
"I strongly encourage anyone who hasn't had a flu shot to get one and anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms to promptly consult with their health care provider about appropriate treatment options."