The U.S. flu season has begun, with seven states reporting high levels of illnesses, and cases are increasing in other parts of the country 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new flu data indicating very high activity in Louisiana and high activity in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, and South Carolina 

The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have also experienced high flu activity, with health officials in Puerto Rico declaring an influenza epidemic earlier this month 

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert from Vanderbilt University, remarked, "We're off to the races," emphasizing the early onset of the flu season 

Traditionally, the flu season peaks in December or January, but it started in October last year and is making a November entrance this year 

Flu activity is on the rise in various states, including New York City, Arkansas, California, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas 

Alaska has reported high flu activity for weeks, but it was not included in the latest count due to a lack of data reporting last week 

Tracking flu during the season depends on reports from individuals with flu-like symptoms visiting healthcare facilities; however, not all flu cases are confirmed through lab tests, complicating the assessment 

The CDC's flu surveillance team, led by Alicia Budd, notes "continued increases" in flu indicators, emphasizing the challenge of distinguishing flu cases from other respiratory viruses like COVID-19 

Despite uncertainties about the effectiveness of current flu vaccines, the CDC estimates over 780,000 flu illnesses, 8,000 hospitalizations, and 490 flu-related deaths this fall, including at least one child