NEW YORK — Flu is now widespread in all but three states as the nation grapples with an earlier-than-normal season. But there was one bit of good news Friday: The number of hard-hit areas declined.
The flu season in the U.S. got under way a month early, in December, driven by a strain that tends to make people sicker. That led to worries that it might be a bad season, following one of the mildest flu seasons in recent memory.
The latest numbers, however, hint that the flu season may already have peaked in some spots, like in the South. Still, officials there and in other places are bracing for more sickness.
In Ohio, administrators at Miami University are anxious that a bug that hit employees will spread to students when they return to the Oxford campus next week.
“Everybody’s been sick. It’s miserable,” said Ritter Hoy, a spokeswoman for the 17,000-student school.
Despite the early start, health officials say it’s not too late to get a flu shot. The vaccine is considered a good — though not perfect — protection against getting really sick from the flu.
Flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday. The only states without widespread flu were California, Mississippi and Hawaii.
The number of hard-hit states fell to 24 from 29, where larger numbers of people were treated for flu-like illness. Now off that list: Florida, Arkansas and South Carolina in the South, the first region hit this flu season.
Recent flu reports included holiday weeks when some doctor’s offices were closed, so it will probably take a couple more weeks to get a better picture, CDC officials said Friday. Experts say so far say the season looks moderate.