US health officials declare 2022-2023 flu season an epidemic

US health officials declare 2022-2023 flu season an epidemic

US health officials announced Friday that the 2022-2023 flu season had already crossed its epidemic threshold, with cases, hospitalizations and deaths nearly doubling compared to the previous week. The current outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and multiple highly immunoevasive sub-variants of Omicron that are now dominant only add to the strain becoming a serious health crisis across the country.

Many health systems, particularly children’s hospitals, have reached or exceed capacity. California’s Orange County declared a health emergency on October 31 as a result of a record number of pediatric hospitalizations and flooded emergency rooms. Currently, about 75 percent of children’s hospital beds in the country are occupied.

Percentage of outpatient visits for respiratory illnesses to the CDC by flu season. [Photo: CDC.gov]

Dr. Anita Patel, a critical care physician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC, said Fortunelast week: “I can honestly say that unfortunately with RSV and the flu, we’ve had children who needed to be intubated or have breathing tubes to help them get through the viral illness. I’ve been practicing ICU [intensive care unit] doctor for a decade now, and I think I can safely say this is one of the worst surges I’ve ever seen.”

Federal health officials are outlining plans to deploy federal troops and FEMA personnel to severely affected areas across the country in response to health systems reaching capacity to handle the influx of sick people. These discussions also include the mobilization of resources, such as ventilators, to the most affected regions. Yet these crisis measures are barely mentioned in the mainstream press, insensitive to the mass suffering and death that has characterized these last three years.

The number of jurisdictions reporting high or very high levels of influenza-like illness (ILI) activity has increased in the Mid-Atlantic and South-Central West Coast regions. The District of Columbia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Kentucky have been designated purple, signifying the highest level of ILI activity, for the week ending October 29, 2022.

Dr. José Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) briefing on Friday: “We are seeing the highest rates of hospitalization for influenza since a decade ago. We also reported the second flu-related pediatric death of the season.”

The 2022-2023 flu season, officially launched in the first week of October, is gaining incredible momentum right from the start. Test positivity rates reported to the CDC by US clinical laboratories increased from 1 percent in mid-September to 9 percent in late October and continue to rise.

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