NEW YORK (CBS) Could the flu season be finally leveling off? Federal health officials say while flu activity remains high in most states, the latest data is promising.
This flu season started early and got intense quickly, becoming one of the worst seasons in more than a decade. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show one out of 13 visits to the doctor last week were for flu symptoms, but for the first time in months that's no worse than the previous week.
"Those numbers are the ones that are leveling off this week and so that is encouraging," said the CDC's Dr. Dan Jernigan.
The CDC reports deaths from pneumonia and flu have also gone down. Most of the deaths and hospitalizations this season have been in people over 50-years-old. It says 43 states are still experiencing high flu illness activity for another week as well as New York City. But health officials say overall activity is starting to decrease.
The report says 22 more children have died, bringing the number of pediatric flu deaths to 84 this season. Thursday the CDC released a report showing the vaccine is about 36-percent effective for both Flu A and Flu B viruses overall, but that number was 59-percent in children six months of age to age eight.
"We know the vaccine is not perfect," Dr. Jernigan said. "If you look at all the deaths that have occurred this season, around 25-percent were vaccinated, so that is a message that children should be vaccinated because it will prevent complications."
Health officials have said we could see more than 700,000 hospitalizations for flu and more than 56,000 deaths this season. They also caution they're expecting several more weeks of flu season so, they're urging everyone to get the shot if you haven't already and stay home if you are sick to prevent spreading the virus.