CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It looks like the flu wants to get a jump on the holiday season.
Though flu season typically does not hit until January or February, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department director Dr. Rahul Gupta said it may peak in December this year.
Gupta said flu activity is increasing across the state. Brandon Merritt, the health department's epidemiologist, said there has been a "definite, sudden jump in cases" in Kanawha County.
"We saw about a threefold increase in one week," he said.
Gupta said there are also increasing reports of "influenza-like illnesses," which are suspected flu cases that have not been confirmed by lab tests.
"There will probably be a several-fold increase in the next coming weeks," he said. "At least on the surface, this looks to be a bad flu year."
The Centers for Disease Control share Gupta's worries. According to a news release from the agency earlier this week, there have been signiciant increases in flu activity in the last two weeks.
Forty-eight states and Puerto Rico have reported laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza, according to a CDC surveillance report published Nov. 30. The United States also reached its "influenza-like illness" baseline during the week of Nov. 24, which indicates those suspected illnesses are most likely caused by the flu and not other viruses.
Other than the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, this is the earliest the U.S. has hit its ILI baseline since the 2003-2004 season, according to the CDC. Last year, the country did not hit the baseline until mid-March.
Msot of the confirmed cases nationwide are H3N2, a flu strain "typically associated with more severe seasons," the CDC reported.