"Last year was a relatively severe season," Frieden said, noting that 381,000 people were hospitalized, and 169 children died from the flu. "This is higher than we've seen in many flu seasons."
The good news, Frieden said, is that the flu vaccine prevented millions of illnesses. "We estimate that during last year's flu season, flu vaccination prevented 6.6 million people from getting sick with the flu, 3.2 million from going to see a doctor and at least 79,000 hospitalizations."
But despite the vaccine's success rates, this year, only 40% of people ages 6 months or older have been vaccinated, he said.
"Seasonal influenza activity is starting to increase in different parts of the U.S.," he said, "The best way you can protect yourself against the flu is getting a flu vaccine."
Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's Center for Global Health, echoed Frieden's sentiments, particularly when it comes to children.
"Already, three children have died this year from flu," Schuchat said. "We hate to see anyone die from the flu, but particularly children. I really urge parents to make sure their children are vaccinated."
It's too soon to predict this season's outcome, so don't hesitate to get the vaccine while supplies are still high, Schuchat said.
"In 90% of years, the flu peaks between January and March, so it's too soon to tell you what this flu season is going to be like," she said. "Protecting your family from the flu is something we can control, and vaccination is the best way."
Excerpt from The Chart blog