"People should continue getting vaccinated and taking other preventive measures to prevent getting sick".
Until last week, the dominant flu virus in Arkansas was H3N2, a type A virus that usually causes more illness than other viruses and mutates faster, making vaccines less effective against it. By comparison, only 31 states/jurisdictions experienced high illness in a single week during the two previous seasons known to be severe: the 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons.
"Everybody is encouraged to get the flu vaccine this season, even though the vaccine is not 100 percent effective", she said. The decision is made months in advance, when it is hard to know what strains will be circulating.
The number of Minnesotans hospitalized with flu symptoms also set a record - 4,300 - the highest since the Minnesota Health Department began tracking them in 2008.
Even when it doesn't work well, the flu vaccine can save many lives.
"That's higher than we typically see for H3N2", said Ed Belongia, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Wisconsin. This knowledge should help improve next year's vaccine effectiveness, he said.
"We've got a good vaccine but not a great vaccine".
"For the 2017-2018 season, manufacturers projected they would provide between 151 million and 166 million doses of injectable vaccine for the USA market".
In Rhode Island, 24 people have died of flu-related illness so far this flu season.
"We have become aware that there have been three deaths where flu is definitely a contributing factor to the deaths", she said. The vaccine provided 59 percent protection against H3N2 in children 8 and younger.
Outpatient visits for influenza-like illnesses in Hawaii were up almost 8 percent from the previous week, according to the state Department of Health.
A flu pandemic, according to the CDC, involves an outbreak of a new infectious virus.
But we all know the flu shot, while helpful - particularly for those in high risk groups like the young, old and those with chronic diseases or immune deficiencies - is not flawless. Highlighting the vaccine's ability to reduce the need for medical treatment in children, Azar tells CNN: "Getting the flu shot is the same kind of sensible precaution as buckling your seat belt".
The flu vaccine is working better than doctors feared, but still is not especially effective, health officials said Thursday. There have been more than 8,100 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in MA this flu season, DPH said.