HealthDay News — Flu cases and flu-related hospitalizations have risen sharply since October, with at least 6.4 million reported cases and 55,000 hospitalizations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 2,900 Americans have died from the flu, the CDC reported late last week.

“The season started in earnest earlier than it usually does. It crossed the threshold of an outbreak earlier,” Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told HealthDay. “But the trajectory of the cases is really on a trajectory very similar to two of the worst years we’ve had on record. Obviously, flu is forever unpredictable. It may turn around and peter out. But right now, the trajectory that it’s on looks like it’s going to be a really bad season.”

Comparing the trajectories, flu activity this year has surpassed the peak for 2014 to 2015, Fauci noted. And it is climbing toward the peak for the 2017 to 2018 season, which wound up being the deadliest in nearly a half-century. About 61,000 Americans died from flu during the 2017 to 2018 season, the CDC says.

The most unusual part of the flu season is that the influenza B strain has proven to be dominant, with the more virulent influenza A strains of H1N1 and H3N2 playing only a supporting role, CDC data show. Children younger than 5 years are the most vulnerable to influenza B. There have been 27 pediatric flu deaths reported so far.

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