Updated influenza surveillance data in New Jersey shows this year’s severe flu epidemic continues to get more severe.

The number of confirmed flu cases in the Garden State rose from 17,962 last week to 20,478 this week, an increase of slightly more than 14 percent, according to a new report by the state Health Department.

At the beginning of March 2017, the total number of confirmed New Jersey influenza cases was 9,242, which means this year’s total is more than twice as high as last year’s.

“We’re still seeing high levels of influenza-like illness activity throughout the entire state,” said New Jersey state epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan.

There is some good news, however.

“We are starting to see a decline in the levels of emergency visits as well as emergency department admissions associated with influenza-like illness,” she said

Tan noted flu activity remains high because “we know that the season has seen a predominance of the H3N2 virus (type A), but now we’re seeing an increase in the type B flu viruses that are circulating.”

She noted this is not surprising because we typically see an upswing of type B viruses later in the flu season.

So when will flu season start to wind down?

“Flu is really unpredictable. It’s really hard to say when we will actually start to see decreases in various areas of the state, that’s why we continue to monitor the activity,” she said.

“Usually we’ll start to see a decline around March, April — and we just have to continue to monitor the activity to see how that goes.”

Health officials continue to encourage anyone who has not gotten a flu shot this season to get one.

Tan said the first line of defense against influenza is good hygiene.

“Washing your hands is good practice all year round, particularly this time of year when flu viruses and other viruses are circulating.”

Tan said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue a report on Friday focused on national influenza trends, and that may give us a better idea when we can expect a significant decline in flu activity here.