March 1 (UPI) -- A severe strain of the flu has begun sweeping the nation, as the number of deaths in the United States continue to rise, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday.
"Each year in the United States, we typically see three flu viruses co-circulate, Influenza A H1N1, Influenza A H3N2, and Influenza B. So far this season, influenza A H1N1 viruses has been predominant and in all parts of the country except for Region 4 (the southeastern part of the country, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee), where H3N2 viruses have predominated all season," Kristen Nordlund, a press officer for the CDC, told UPI.
H3H2, a variant of swine flu, has overtaken its predecessor, H1N1, as the dominant form of flu in the United States. While the flu spread throughout the country, it's at a high level in 33 states, according to the CDC.
Now, more than half of new flu cases are reported to be influenza A H3H2.
"In recent weeks, H3N2 viruses have accounted for a growing proportion of influenza viruses detected nationally and, over the last three weeks, have become predominant in Regions 6 and 7 (the south and Midwest), in addition to Region 4. In Region 2 (the northeast), the proportion of H1N1 viruses and H3N2 viruses is roughly equal," Nordlund said.
Since the season began in October, 56 flu-related pediatric deaths have occurred, including eight in the last week alone. Last flu season saw a total of 185 pediatric deaths in all.
So far, 9,274 of flu-related hospitalizations were reported this season. Adults older than 65 and children younger than five are the most likely to be hospitalized.
Last week, the CDC reported that this season's flu shot was more effective than last season's.
New York City and 33 states have reported a high number of flu-related illnesses. For example, North Carolina had 21 flu-related deaths just last week alone, which gives the state 98 flu-related deaths this season.
That's compared to 37 confirmed flu deaths in Connecticut
The flu has hit the nation hard this season, but the CDC says it's not too late to combat the virus.
The CDC recommends people who aren't already infected with the virus go get a flu shot. Though they note that there is no shot to protect against H3N2 this season.
The agency says that those who are already infected begin "covering coughs to help prevent the spread of germs" and "take influenza antiviral drugs as recommended."
Flu symptoms consist of a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.
The agency has a particularly strong message for parents.
"For anyone 6 months or older who has not yet been vaccinated this season, CDC recommends that they get vaccinated now," the CDC site read.