LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Patients hospitalized with the flu increased dramatically in late November and early December, according to numbers released by the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD).

Through Dec. 3, 217 people have been hospitalized since the start of the flu season. That’s an increase of 72 over the previous week. It’s only slightly lower than the 78 flu patients reported during the previous week, Nov. 21-27.

SNHD reported the first two deaths of the flu season two weeks ago, announcing that a woman in her 40s and another woman in her 60s had died. The dates when the women died have not been released.

The number of emergency room/quick care visits involving people with flu-like symptoms was steady — about 10% of all visits over the past two weeks. The percentage of children (17 years old or under) with flu-like symptoms dropped slightly but remains at 51% for the most recent week reported.

“Among 55 states/jurisdictions, the respiratory illness activity level in the state of Nevada remained high,” according to an SNHD news release.

Nationwide, 7.2% of patient visits were due to respiratory illnesses — far above the 2.5% norm.

The week of Nov. 28-Dec. 3 showed an increase in emergency room/quick care visits from people age 18 to 44. That age group became the most frequent, passing children 0-4 years old and 5-17 years old.

This year has seen the return of flu cases early in the season, which begins in October. Over the past two years, flu cases have been minimal — very low overall in 2020-21 during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and not appearing until later in the flu season during 2021-22.