Influenza has sickened up to 7.3 million people in the U.S. and landed as many as 83,500 in the hospital through Jan. 5, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It's the the first time the agency has released such data in the middle of a flu season, which usually begins in October, so there's no comparison with previous years.
The CDC plans to update the in-season estimates each Friday to help Americans understand the severity of the virus. About half of those who have contracted the flu this season, or 2.9 million to 3.5 million people, have seen a doctor because of the condition. Last season, 80,000 people died from the flu, including 180 children. The CDC still urges Americans to get vaccinated against influenza, which will continue to spread for several more months.
The flu is already widespread across the southern half of the U.S. The virus typically begins in the Southeast and moves north and west as the season progresses. Thirteen children have died so far this season from influenza, a number that will increase as more reports make it to the CDC.