The number of people hospitalized for influenza in the United States fell to its lowest point in at least a decade on Friday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The decline came after the flu season began in September.
“There’s been a very gradual reduction in the hospitalization rate for the flu over the last few months,” said Dr. Michael Siegel, chief of pandemic influenza prevention at the CDC.
Siegel said he expected the number of hospitalizations to return to normal in early March.
A CDC report published Thursday shows that more than 1 million Americans have been hospitalized for the virus in the first four months of this year, an increase of about 40 percent from the same time last year.
“We’re seeing more people with symptoms than before, more people being hospitalized,” Siegel told NBC News.
“This is a much bigger problem.”
Influenza vaccination rates have remained relatively steady during the pandemic.
The CDC says the number who have received the first dose of the vaccine, as well as those who have missed two doses, have been stable at about 70 percent of Americans.
But there has been a steep decline in the number vaccinated as of late.
That is because fewer people have been able to get the vaccine.
The agency said in the latest data that about 7.1 million people have received one dose of influenza vaccine since the start of the pandemics, down from 8.2 million in March.
That’s the same as the number it expects to reach before the pandics ends on May 15.
The number who haven’t gotten the vaccine is also declining, as more people have fallen ill.
According to the CDC, the number receiving flu shot is down more than 5 million, from 8 million in February to 7.4 million in September, a decline of nearly 10 percent.
“The vaccine is working, but it’s not yet a fully effective vaccine,” Sauer said.
“It’s not the vaccine we were looking for.”