New York: The U.S. flu season is off to an unusually fast start, adding to an autumn mix of viruses that have been filling hospitals and doctor waiting rooms.
Reports of flu are already high in 17 states, and the hospitalization rate hasn’t been this high this early since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, there have been an estimated 730 flu deaths, including at least two children.
“We are seeing more cases than we would expect at this time,” the CDC’s Dr. José Romero said.
A busy flu season is not unexpected. The nation saw two mild seasons during the COVID pandemic, and experts have worried that flu might come back strong as a COVID-weary public has moved away from masks and other measures that tamp the spread of respiratory viruses.
Community Montessori school in New Albany, Indiana, switched to virtual teaching at the end of the week because so many students were out sick with the flu. Beginning Monday, the school’s 500 students will go back to wearing masks.
“Everybody just wants kids on campus, that is for sure,” said the school’s director, Burke Fondren. “We will do what we need to do.”
There may be some good news: COVID cases have been trending downwards and leveled off in the last three weeks, Romero said.