Flu season has eased off in a large part of the country, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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As of March 2, three regions of the United States, which encompass much of the South and Southwest, reported normal levels of flu — down from the elevated levels in mid-February
Just four states reported moderate levels of flu activity, down from 12 states the week before. And 33 states reported minimal flu activity, up from 23 states the week before.
However, flu season isn't over yet. Much of the North is still experiencing above-normal levels of flu activity. Nationally, the percentage of people visiting the doctor for flu-like illness is 2.3 percent, which is still above the nation's baseline level of 2.2 percent. The baseline level reflects levels typically seen during the summer months.
So far this season, 10,721 people have been hospitalized with flu. More than half of these individuals were ages 65 and older. Eighty-seven children have died during this flu season, with six of these deaths occurring between Feb. 23 and March 2.
Flu season is unpredictable, but flu activity typically peaks during January and February, and can remain elevated through May, the CDC said.
The best way to protect yourself against the flu is with a flu shot, and the best time to get a flu shot is early in the season. Because flu season is now winding down, and it takes two weeks for the shot's benefits to kick in, "the window for vaccination this season is closing," said Erin Burns, a communications officer at the CDC's Influenza Division.
But flu vaccination is still recommended for people in institutions, such as hospitals, that are experiencing flu outbreaks; for children who need two doses and haven't yet gotten their second dose; and for people preparing to travel to the Southern Hemisphere, "which is beginning to enter its traditional flu season," Burns said.
Health care providers can continue to offer the flu shot until June, when this season's shot expires.