(NEXSTAR) – The U.S. is starting to see signs of an early flu season this year. According to tracking from Centers for Disease Control and Preventionoffice visits for respiratory illnesses are now above baseline levels and more people are testing positive for the flu, especially in the South and Southeast.
Few places see more residents calling the doctor with flu-like symptoms than Texas.
The CDC tracks flu activity on a map showing all US states and territories. The map, which uses data through Oct. 15, shows just one location — Washington, D.C. — with flu activity categorized as “very high.”
Texas is one of five states shown on the map in red with a “high” level of flu activity. New York, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina are seeing similar outbreaks.
Louisiana, Alabama, and Puerto Rico are also categorized as “high,” but have lower numbers and are therefore colored orange.
Some local jurisdictions also report CDC data. San Antonio is one of the few cities already reporting “very high” levels.
The map is not based on confirmed lab tests for the flu, but rather tracks where people go to the doctor with flu-like symptoms (respiratory illness and fever, plus a cough or sore throat). Because of this, the card “may capture patient visits due to other respiratory pathogens that cause similar symptoms,” the CDC explains.
Flu season is growing at the same time as children’s hospitals shocked by the invasion of young patients with respiratory syncytial virusor RSV. CDC tracking shows an increase in RSV cases in the past month.
Plus, there’s always the threat of another surge of COVID-19 as we move into the colder months and people move outdoor socializing indoors, where the virus spreads more quickly.
“This virus actually knows how to get us. It follows people, which means we’re going to be together, we’re going to be in those poorly ventilated spaces, and COVID-19 likes that,” said Dr. Ilan Shapiro, chief medical officer at AltaMed in Los Angeles. Influenza and RSV also spread quickly under the same conditions, Shapiro said.
All three viruses also have overlapping symptoms. If you’re feeling sick and aren’t sure which virus you have — COVID, the flu or RSV — Shapiro recommends getting tested, as each virus has different treatment options.