Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Sixteen more children died of influenza last week, bringing the total amount of pediatric deaths this season to 53, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
According to the CDC's Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report, flu activity is widespread in 48 states and Puerto Rico. Oregon is the only state besides Hawaii with lower flu activity levels.
"Overall hospitalizations are now the highest we've seen," Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat told reporters. "Unfortunately, our latest tracking data indicate that flu activity is still high and widespread across most of the nation, and increasing overall."
The CDC reports that a cumulative rate of 51.4 percent laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 population was reported for the week ending on Jan. 27.
Outpatient visits also rose to 7 percent, which is above the national average of just over 2 percent.
New York City, Washington, D.C., and 42 states reported high levels of influenza-like-illness visits for outpatient visits, while Puerto Rico and two states had moderate activity.
The H3N2 strain causing the most illnesses is proving difficult to fight through vaccines, with a Canadian study released last month finding that the vaccine reporting its less than 20 percent effective against the strain.
Experts say the deadly flu could continue spreading for weeks.
"We have not hit our peak yet, unfortunately," CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said. "It is not going down yet. Really, the bottom line is there is still likely many more weeks to go."
Schuchat said that parents concerned for their children should call their doctor to determine whether or not to take the child to the emergency room.
"Worrisome signs are a very high persisting fever, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat or shallow rapid breathing, or significant tiredness or confusion," Schuchat, who replaced CDC chief Brenda Fitzgerald earlier this week, said.