New numbers released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control show a sharp rise in the number of child deaths blamed on the flu outbreak. "We could still see several more weeks of increased activity".
"The flu is not just the sniffles and cough", Schuchat said.
In previous severe flu seasons - not counting pandemics caused by newly mutated viruses - the CDC estimates that up to 56,000 people have died in a single year.
This flu season is now more than 11 weeks old and the average flu season lasts 16 weeks.
This week's data indicated that flu activity remained widespread in 48 states.
What continues to be be notable about this season in particular is the cumulative hospitalization rate among older adults ages 50-64 (63.1 per 100,000 compared to 35.1 per 100,000 in 2014-2015, CDC researchers said) and the rate of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness.
"Flu is incredibly hard to predict, and we don't know if we have hit the peak yet", she said, noting that 59.9 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the population have been for the flu so far this year.
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Flu is now sickening and hospitalizing Americans at rates not seen in almost a decade, and the season is still getting worse, federal health officials said Friday.
The rate of flu activity is similar to the rate in 2009, which was the last flu pandemic, "though that doesn't mean we're having a pandemic", Schuchat said. The H3N2 flu strain is infecting the most people, according to the CDC.
The strain of flu known as H3N2 remains the dominant form circulating in the United States.
Another measure is the percentage of deaths attributed to flu or pneumonia, which often accompanies influenza. She added that it's still not too late to get a flu shot.
The CDC has been working with insurers and pharmacies to alleviate those shortages and to make brand-name drugs available at a lower cost when generics aren't available.
Schuchat said that while this year's virus "isn't new in terms of antigenic drift", virologists are studying it to see if there are "other explanations for the more severe disease we're seeing".