How bad will the flu and Covid be this winter? Hospitals prepare for the difficult season.

How bad will the flu and Covid be this winter?  Hospitals prepare for the difficult season.

Hospitals across the country are bracing for another Covid winter, the first one that is also expected to include high levels of influenza and other respiratory illnesses that have been quietly taking a backseat for the past two years.

Flu cases are already on the rise in parts of the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pediatricians are also seeing a growing number of children sick with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, and enteroviruses.

And despite a downward trend in covidtens of thousands of new cases continue to be diagnosed every day.

The convergence of viruses is taking a toll on health care systems as they are forced to reckon with staffing shortages that have worsened during the pandemic.

“If you tour the nation and ask hospitals how busy they are, every one of them will tell you: they’re busy,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine and Grady Health System in Atlanta.

Health care workers are quitting at rates 23 percent higher than when the pandemic began, reflecting a broader national trend of workers leaving their jobs, according to Health System Trackera joint effort between the nonprofit Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation to monitor the performance of the US health care system.

“Nurses were on the front lines, and some of them burned and leavesaid Dr. James McDeavitt, executive vice president and dean for clinical affairs at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Others in their 50s and 60s who maybe thought they’d be working for another five years retired early. “

Dr. Bernard Camins, medical director for infection prevention at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, has noted a similar “mass exodus” of health care workers who have retired early or moved to a completely different line of work.

Now, he said, “there is a constant struggle to recruit new people.”

Staffing shortfalls mean there is little wiggle room to accommodate any further surge in patients, whether they are sick with Covid, the flu or another illness.

“There is no excess capacity in the hospitals,” del Rio said. “Anything that increases the number of patients is going to tip the balance.”

Despite the shortage, hospital leaders applaud healthcare workers who have been able to stay the course and are ready for this next phase of infectious disease.

Morale is “actually pretty good,” McDeavitt said. “We have moved forward from the beginning of the pandemic, wondering if we would get sick and potentially die.”

“I think those concerns are eased,” McDeavitt said. “We know how to handle it now.”

Where are we now?

Reports of Covid cases have been steadily declining since the beginning of August. As of October 6, the average number of new cases per day, based on a seven-day average, is 44,743, the lowest since April.

Covid-related hospitalizations also continue to decline. As of October 5, the daily average number of hospital beds used by a COVID patient was the lowest since June, at 27,161.

But as cold weather sets in and people gather indoors more and more, Covid cases are expected to rise.

a recent analysis of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, predicts that the average number of COVID cases per day across the country will increase by more than 10 percent in the coming weeks.

“We will see an increase in Covid cases, probably not to the extent that we saw in winter 2020 and winter 2021, but we will see an increase,” said Matthew Binnicker, director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic. “Most of them will be infections that will lead to mild to moderate illness.”

How well do Covid boosters work?

That prediction reflects what is known so far about how the latest Covid vaccines work. While injections may not prevent a person from getting sick after an infection, they have been shown during the pandemic to prevent infected people from entering the hospital and dying.

It is very likely that we will see the flu roaring loudly this winter.

Dr. Dan Uslan, UCLA Health

“The increase in hospitalizations and deaths that we will see will really depend on the extent to which people get up to date on their vaccinations,” especially those at higher risk of serious illness, such as the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, Jennifer Nuzzo said. , director of the Pandemic Center at the Brown University School of Public Health.

The vast majority of Covid cases now circulating are an omicron sub-variant, BA.5. The latest version of the Covid vaccine targets BA.5, but since its debut in September, less than 4% of people eligible for the additional injection have received it.

the Commonwealth Fund recently predicted that more than 745,000 covid-related hospitalizations and more than 75,000 covid-related deaths could be prevented if more people received the bivalent vaccine.

The United States is also seeing the beginning of what is expected to be the first hard flu season dwarves. While the overall figures remain low, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an increase in positive flu tests last week.

“It’s very likely that this winter we’re going to see influenza roaring strong,” said Dr. Dan Uslan, co-director of infection prevention at UCLA Health in Los Angeles.

What’s happening in Australia could be a foretaste: The country is coming off its worst flu season in at least five years, according to the country. Department of Health and Elder Care.

“The data from the southern hemisphere is not good,” said the Mayo Clinic’s Binnicker. “We need to double down on prevention measures,” such as wearing masks and physical distancing.

There are already signs that viruses are circulating more than in recent years.

Pediatricians they’ve started to see “large numbers of seriously ill patients with respiratory illnesses,” said Dr. Sarah Combs, an emergency medicine physician at Children’s National in Washington, DC. The illnesses are not necessarily related to covid or the flu.

“We are seeing child after child with respiratory problems related to what would commonly be called a cold or cold,” Combs said. These are children who do not have asthma or other chronic lung diseases that would make them more susceptible to respiratory problems.

“They come in with a cold and then within 24 hours they are gasping for breath,” he said.

The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone 6 months of age and older. Children under 9 who have never had a flu shot, the CDC said, should get two this year, at least four weeks apart.

To follow NBC HEALTH in Twitter & Facebook.

Leave a Comment