It's early, but the current influenza season looks softer than winter's brutal winter, US health officials said.

According to officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in most parts of the country, most diseases are currently caused by an influenza strain leading to a decrease in the number of hospitalizations and deaths, the type of influenza that prevailed a year ago. Vaccines are also more effective, said Dr. Alicia Fry of the CDC.

Will the United States live a milder flu season?

"If (this strain) continues to be the predominant virus, that's what we expected," said Fry, head of the epidemiology and prevention branch of the CDC's influenza division.

Last season, about 80,000 Americans died of the flu and its complications – the heaviest burden of the disease for at least four decades. According to the CDC, the number of flu-related deaths has ranged from 12,000 to 56,000 in recent years.

The CDC has no estimates of deaths so far this season, in part because it is too early. Influenza generally takes off after Christmas and peaks in February.

On Friday, the CDC released its weekly update on the flu, stating that it would have been widespread in 30 states last week, up from 24 the previous week.

The health agency has also released new estimates on the influenza season's evolution. It said:

"About 6 to 7 million Americans have fallen ill since the start of the flu season in the fall.

– About half were sick enough to see a doctor.

– About 70,000 to 80,000 were hospitalized.

The CDC does not usually make these estimates before the end of the influenza season, but researchers have been working on this model for nearly 10 years and feel that it is strong enough to be used as the season continues, indicated officials.

Because the model is new, CDC researchers reported that they were unable to compare these estimates with previous influenza seasons.

Last season, about 49 million Americans were infected with the flu, 23 million were treated and 960,000 were hospitalized.

The Health and Science Department of the Associated Press receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Scientific Education. The Good Medical is solely responsible for all content.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, disseminated, rewritten or redistributed.