The U.S. is being ravaged by its worst flu season in years. The intensity of the current outbreak has surprised experts and the infection rate stands at about eight percent, as bad as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago. Back then, 60.8 million Americans contracted the virus of which 274,304 were hospitalized and 12,469 died. As bad as that outbreak was, the 2014-2015 flu season was far more lethal with 710,000 people hospitalized and 56,000 dying, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Worryingly, the rate of hospitalizations is the highest the CDC has ever recorded at this point in the U.S. flu season.
As can be seen from the following infographic created with CDC data, the hospitalization rate per 100,000 people due to flu has already hit 59.9 after 18 weeks. During the deadly 2014-2015 season, it took 25 weeks for the rate of hospitalizations to reach that point. Even in a mild year, flu kills an average of 12,000 Americans and this year, the total death count may well surpass the 56,000 recorded in 2014-2015. Over 80 percent of deaths usually occur among the elderly and people with underlying health problems. This year, younger and seemingly healthier people are also being hospitalized at rates far higher than the historical average and 63 children have already died, according to the CDC.