The flu season remains widespread and the statistics bear this out. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 17.8 million people have fallen sick with influenza since October, a figure the health agency calls a “low-severity season.”

Despite a milder season this year, the CDC warns that flu activity in mid-February was the highest it has been all season and urges individuals to get a flu vaccine, use everyday preventive actions and use antivirals as recommended.

In a report published by USA TODAY, influenza is “widespread” geographically in Puerto Rico and 48 states, meaning cases were reported in more than half the regions of the state. The flu is blamed for 11,600 to 19,100 deaths, with up to 221,000 hospitalizations and up to 8.4 million flu medical visits. The CDC says there have been 34 pediatric deaths this season.

The CDC Found, however, lower percentages of outpatient visits, lower rates of hospitalization and Fewer deaths attributed to pneumonia and flu compared with recent years, according to the USA TODAY story.

Last flu season, which stretches from October to the end of May, an estimated 49 million Americans got sick, 23 million sought medical care and 960,000 were hospitalized. While any flu activity is alarming, the CDC says, the overall hospitalization rate so far this season is 23.8 per 100,000 people compared to 30.5 per 100,000 at this period last year. The highest rate is among adults 65 years and older, accounting for 64 hospitalizations per 100,000 population.

With the exception of the 50 to 64 age group, where hospitalizations are about the same as 2018, the rates are lower than last season, the CDC reported.

So who gets the credit for these reduced figures? The CDC credits vaccines with helping blunt the impact of flu this year.

“Early estimates indicate that influenza vaccines have reduced the risk of medically attended influenza-related illness by almost half (47 percent) in vaccinated people so far this season,” the CDC told USA TODAY.

For the first time, the CDC this year has been able to track key data in near time instead of waiting until after the season ends. The early report showed that as many as 7.3 million people have fallen sick with the flu since the season began in October, with an estimated 69,000 to 84,000 hospitalized.

The CDC is the watchdog of the nation’s health report. It lets us know what is working and what is not working. It helps us to take preventative measures. It’s an agency we should pay attention to when it issues a report.

The numbers provided by the CDC paint a clear picture that the flu bug is still flying around. The agency also is adamant that it is important to get a flu vaccine. It’s never too late to take preventative action. You know the old adage: “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”