ATLANTA, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Influenza activity -- earlier and more severe than usual -- is widespread and at high levels in the United States, federal health officials say.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said reports of influenza-like-illness are nearing what have been peak levels during moderate flu seasons, but the peak for this year hasn't been reached.
During the week of Dec. 23, U.S. influenza activity increased -- of 9,363 specimens tested, 32 percent were positive for influenza. Region Five, comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, reported the highest rate, with 58 percent of samples taken by doctors testing positive for influenza.
Two influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported for the week and were associated with influenza B viruses. The total flu-related pediatric deaths for this season was 18.
New York City and 29 states experienced high influenza-like-illness activity: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.
Nine states experienced moderate activity: Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia.
Four states experienced low activity: Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Six states experienced minimal activity: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana and Nevada.
Data were insufficient to calculate a level for the District of Columbia, Idaho and Maryland.
The circulating strains continue to be well matched to the strains in the seasonal flu vaccine.
The CDC recommends all people six months and older get a flu vaccine.