cdc flu virus
Seasonal flu: What you need to know
01:46 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Seasonal flu activity remains high in the United States but continued to decline in most areas last week, leading up to Christmas, according to data published Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers do not include flu activity from after the holiday.

The CDC estimates that as of last week, there have been at least 20 million illnesses, 210,000 hospitalizations and 13,000 deaths from flu this season.

Among visits to a health care provider last week, 6.1% were for respiratory illness.

The cumulative hospitalization rate was more than four times higher than it has been at this point in the season in more than a decade.

The number of hospital admissions for flu decreased nationally for the third week in a row. Nearly 19,000 patients were admitted to hospitals with influenza last week, down from a season high of more than 26,000 new admissions in the week after Thanksgiving.

Among children, 14 deaths were reported last week for a total of 61 this season.

“An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu. Vaccination helps prevent infection and can also prevent serious outcomes in people who get vaccinated but still get sick with flu,” CDC researchers wrote in their weekly flu report Friday.

“CDC continues to recommend that everyone ages 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine as long as flu activity continues.”

Respiratory virus activity remains “high” or “very high” in most states, and public health experts warn that activity may increase again following New Year’s Eve.

Among the states with the highest level of activity is New Mexico, where the US Department of Health and Human Services sent a team from the National Disaster Medical System to the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital on Friday, “providing much needed support to an overwhelmed emergency department.”

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra sent a letter to US governors in early December outlining the federal resources that were available amid a surge of respiratory illnesses.

The 14-person team deployed to the hospital “consists of medical professionals from across the country who are activated as intermittent federal employees, including: a team leader, an administrative specialist, a medical officer, a nurse practitioner, four registered nurses, four paramedics and two respiratory therapists. The team will directly help UNM Hospital’s staffing challenges, allowing existing staff some much needed relief and filling gaps in pediatric patient care,” HHS said in a st