The level of influenza-like activity for the week ending February 3, the most recent week for data, shows that 7.7 percent of visits were from patients with flu symptoms, which exceeds the severe 2003-04 flu season and matches the highest level seen in the 2009 pandemic flu year, Schuchat said.
"We may be on track to break some recent records", said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This week, we are reporting an additional 16 flu related pediatric deaths for this season".
Health officials have said this year's vaccine targets the flu viruses that are now making people sick, including the swine flu virus that has become a regular winter threat.
"As of this week, we have more hospitalizations than we have seen in any recent season including severe 2014-2015 season", Schuchat said.
Hospitalization for the flu is the highest its been since the CDC began tracking that information 10 years ago.
The dominant flu strain this season, influenza A (H3N2), is especially potent, linked with severe disease and death, particularly among children and the elderly.
United States flu levels now rival 2009 swine flu — CDC
The flu season is at high levels in 43 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.
The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department has reported 513 cases and 11 deaths this flu season.
Schuchat said the country is now in the eleventh week of the 2017-2018 flu season.
Flu activity continues to be high and widespread, according to the Department of Health.
"If persons look like they have the flu, don't wait on a test result - you should treat immediately if it's a person with severe presentation or underlying risk conditions", she said.
Secretary Azar discussed his experience overseeing HHS ongoing flu activities and his time working with other public health leaders during his previous time at HHS.
Schuchat noted that while influenza A (H3N2) remains the predominant strain, influenza B viruses are comprising about 30% of viruses reported in this week's data. The H3N2 flu strain is infecting the most people, according to the CDC. Keeping in mind that this doesn't include deaths from the flu that weren't reported as flu-related, it's clear that this season is unsafe. "However, some protection is better than none", Dr. Schuchat said. It first hit that spring, at the tail end of the winter season, but doctor visits hit their height in late October during a second wave. The flu shot will remain effective for roughly six months.