More than 6 million people have had the flu this season, CDC said

(NBC News)

Startling new numbers show widespread flu infections across the United States.

An estimated 6 million to 7 million people have had the flu so far this season.

Half went to their doctor for help, and up to 84,000 were so sick they had to be hospitalized. 

"This is the first year that we're actually reporting these numbers during the season and going forward, we're going to report them every week," said Dr. Alicia Fry, of the Centers for Disease Control and prevention.

The latest report from the CDC finds widespread flu activity in 30 states.

Adult flu deaths are not officially counted, but 16 children have died so far.

Experts say it's not too late to reap the benefits of a flu vaccine. 

"We know the vaccine reduces outpatient visits, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and can be lifesaving in children," Fry said.