"This is a feature of this year’s flu -- not only did it start early, but it seemed to occur all over the country more or less simultaneously," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, told ABC News.
According to data released last week from the CDC, the deadly virus has yet to reach "epidemic" proportions, but it could soon. A flu outbreak can become an epidemic when the number of deaths resulting from the virus exceeds a percentage set by the CDC using data from previous years. However, this week's number of deaths has reportedly placed the country at just 0.2 percent below that threshold.
State health officials in Ohio said nearly 2,100 people have been hospitalized because of the flu, which is a dramatic increase from the 369 hospitalizations around this time during the 2016-2017 flu season. The state hasn't reportedly experienced a flu season this terrible since the 2014-2015 season when there were roughly 2,800 flu-related deaths.
The virus also appears to be hitting California particularly hard. According to the Associated Press, at least 27 deaths of people under 65 have been linked to the flu. State hospitals are also reportedly beginning to run out of the anti-viral medication used to treat the illness, Tamiflu.
According to The Weather Channel, many of those contracting the virus have a strain known as H3N2, which reportedly doesn't respond well to flu vaccinations and is particularly dangerous to young kids and adults over the age of 65.
Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, body aches, headaches and fatigue. To treat the flu, the CDC recommends using over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or cough syrup to relieve symptoms, in addition to resting and taking fluids.
To curb the spread of the flu, the agency also advises those infected to:
Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, nose, and eyes
Wash your hands frequently
Avoid others who are infected
Sneeze or cough into your sleeve or a tissue
If you are able to contact your doctor within 48 hours of onset of symptoms, you can potentially be administered an antiviral drug which will reduce the severity of symptoms in addition to the length of the illness. The CDC also has additional guidelines here.
RELATED: The best drinks to fight the flu
The Best Drinks to Fight the Flu
The Best Drinks to Fight the Flu
This shouldn't be a surprise: the ultimate clear liquid, water is the truest drink to keep you hydrated. Don't like the taste? Add a sugar-free flavor packet, like Crystal Light, to your glass to encourage more guzzling.
Credit: iStockphoto/ Thinkstock
Ice Pops and Ice Cubes
How do you think ice cubes became the 25th most searched recipe in America, after all? Ice pops, or ice cubes if your freezer just happens to be void of summer’s best treat, are two of the best defenses against dehydration. WebMD advises to look for ice pops made with 100 percent fruit juices to get a 2-in-1 fight against the flu – hydration, plus vitamins.
Credit: Jupiter Images
Mother Nature Network notes one Harvard study that shows black tea as the ultimate immunity booster. Drinking five cups of black tea per day for two weeks nearly quadrupled a person’s immunity system – so if tea isn’t a part of your diet already, you germaphobes, you should get on it. Thanks to black tea’s abundance of theanine, flavonoids (antioxidant-like compounds), catechins (compounds that fight free radicals in the body),it’s been proven to fight off the flu.
Credit: Flickr/ HinduCindu
Ginger may as well be called a superfood, seeing as how much it can keep the flu at bay. Most people reach for a ginger ale when tummy troubles come about, and we can see why – it’s been a part of Chinese herbal medicine for more than 2,000 years to relieve digestion problems and nausea. Plus, ginger can help detox the body by inducing sweating (not the most fun symptom of the flu) to get rid of the body’s toxins. And ginger’s analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties relieve aches and pains that come with the flu. Convinced? Fortunately, ginger tea is simple to make: the University of Maryland Medical Center advises adding 2 tablespoons of ground ginger or ginger root to a cup of boiling water. (We particularly like this honey, lemon, and ginger flu-fighting concoction from Simple Green Smoothies, too.)
Credit: Flickr/ Ali Fayre
Chicken broth may be your best remedy against a cold and the flu. Vitamins and protein? Check. Hydration power? Check. Anti-inflammatory properties? Check. Congestion-fighting properties? Check. The most popular study on chicken broth, from the University of Nebraska, showed that chicken soup helped reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms and helped build up the nose’s protective cilia, hair-like substances in the nose that prevent contagions – like that pesky flu bug – from entering the body. While you may need a few days to feel well enough to eat a hearty chicken soup, the University of Nebraska provides the ultimate chicken noodle soup recipe. A scientifically-backed recipe to feel better? Not even your mom’s homemade soup-made-with-love can top that.