D.C., 7 States Reporting High Flu Activity; 2 Children Die From the Virus

While COVID-19 and the Omicron variant remain a top health issue in the U.S., the flu season has now also arrived as two children have been confirmed dead from the virus, while several parts of the U.S. are now reporting high flu activity.

Washington, D.C., is currently reporting the most intense flu activity, according to the most recent data, while the number of states experiencing high activity rose from three to seven, which include New Mexico, Kansas, Indiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Georgia and North Dakota, according to figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Monday.

Lynnette Brammer, who tracks flu-like ailments for the CDC, said that the current flu season is looking like it will be "more of a normal flu season" after last year's unusually light one. She said that the child flu deaths are "unfortunately what we would expect when flu activity picks up. It's a sad reminder of how severe flu can be."

One child died during last year's season, compared to the 199 children who died two years ago and the 144 from the year before that.

Flu Season U.S.
While COVID-19 and the Omicron variant remain a top health issue in the U.S., the flu season is now also in full swing nationwide. Above, a sign directs traffic to the drive-through flu shot station at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit, Michigan, on Nov. 10, 2020. Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

The type of virus circulating this year tends to cause the largest amount of severe disease, especially in the elderly and the very young, Brammer said.

Last year's break from the flu made it more challenging to plan for this year's flu vaccine. At the moment, it looks like what's circulating is in a slightly different subgroup from what the vaccine targets, but it's "really too early to know" whether that will blunt the vaccine's effectiveness, Brammer said.

"We'll have to see what the impact of these little changes" will be, Brammer said. "Flu vaccine is your best way to protect yourself against flu."

There are early signs that fewer people are getting flu shots compared to last year. With hospitals already stretched by COVID-19, it's more important than ever to get a flu shot and take other precautions, Brammer said.

"Cover your cough. Wash your hands. Stay home if you're sick," Brammer said. "If you do get flu, there are antivirals you can talk to your doctor about that can prevent severe illness and help you stay out of the hospital."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Flu Shot
Two children have been confirmed dead from the flu this season, while several parts of the U.S. are now reporting high flu activity. Above, a nurse gives a free flu shot to a patient at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit, Michigan, on Nov. 10, 2020. Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images