The flu is spreading through the Washington region earlier than usual, and at what appears to be an increasing pace.

Warnings had been issued that the flu was going to cause problems this year, but “for us it’s been a bad flu season already,” said Bill Frohna, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

The number of patients testing positive for the flu at the hospital has exceeded the figure from last flu season, which was mild. With the three traditional flu months just beginning, this season’s figure is already approaching the number for the 2011 season, Frohna said.

The coughing, achy, feverish malady has made itself felt in ways beyond numbers, affecting a cherished tradition. On Friday night, the show did not go on at Arena Stage, and a performance of “My Fair Lady” was canceled.

Saturday night, patrons were told that the lead actress was among the flu victims in the cast. An understudy had lost her voice. Others were missing, too. But a member of the ensemble played Eliza Doolittle.

Meanwhile, in its most recent report, Maryland’s health department said the state was experiencing a high intensity of flu-like illness, calling the outbreak widespread.