Flu season already hits hard in half of the US.

Flu season already hits hard in half of the US.


Roughly half of the US, 22 states, along with Washington, DC, New York City and Puerto Rico, report high or very high respiratory illness activity as flu season spreads across the country weeks earlier than usual.

Multiple respiratory viruses circulate throughout the country, including the flu, RSV, and the virus that causes COVID-19, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. he tweeted on Thursday that flu is contributing to a “significant proportion” of that circulation.

And flu activity continues to rise: After nearly doubling in the last week of October, the number of flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths this season made another significant jump in the first week of November. the CDC now esteem that there have been at least 2.8 million illnesses, 23,000 hospitalizations and 1,300 deaths from influenza as of November 5.

The flu is notoriously difficult to predict.

“Among people who study the flu, there’s a little saying, ‘If you’ve seen a flu season, well, you’ve seen a flu season,'” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “The implication is that they’re all a little bit different from each other, and that’s certainly the case.”

This season, there have been about 5 flu hospitalizations per 100,000 people, rates typically seen in December or January, CDC data shows. And in the most recent week, about 13% of lab tests, more than 1 in 8, were positive for the flu, up from 9% the week before.

Although the numbers are especially high for this time of year, experts say the trends are otherwise following an expected pattern, and an early flu season doesn’t necessarily mean it will last longer or be more severe. .

“The image is pretty consistent across our different surveillance pieces. There is nothing to make me think that this virus is really any different and causes more severe illness than what we typically see with the flu,” said Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist who leads CDC’s national influenza surveillance team. “The flu can cause serious results, but this year is not disproportionate compared to previous years. It’s not like we’re seeing a lot of hospitalizations without a lot of illness.”

Flu activity has been highest in the South, CDC data shows. Walgreens Facts that tracks prescriptions for antiviral treatments like Tamiflu suggests hotspots centered in Mississippi and Alabama, stretching from the Gulf Coast area, including Houston and New Orleans, to Nashville.

As the flu rages in the south, RSV is showing early signs of slowing down in the region, CDC data showseven as it continues to rise in other parts of the country.

Nationwide, nearly 1 in 5 PCR tests for RSV came back positive in the first week of November, reaching levels the South saw a month ago. But in that region, fewer than 1 in 7 tests are now positive for RSV.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that can cause serious illness, especially in younger babies, and has kept pediatric hospitals more crowded than usual in recent weeks.

Despite improvements in the South, the overall burden on children’s hospitals across the country has not eased. More than three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds and pediatric ICU beds have been in use in recent weeks, up from an average of about two-thirds full in the past two years, according to federal data.

On Thursday, Dr. Brian Cummings, medical director of the Department of Pediatrics at Mass General for Children, said they had seen about 2,000 cases of RSV in October and more than 1,000 in the first week of November.

“It’s escalated and it’s been pretty severe,” Cummings said during a news conference Thursday.

Most of the infections have been treated in urgent care centers and the emergency department, and people are sent home, Cummings said. “But even if only 10 percent of them need hospitalization, it creates a lot of stress in healthcare settings, and what we’re seeing is we’ve had over 250 hospitalizations just for RSV alone, on top of the other circulating viruses,” said. she said she.

The pediatric ICU is full, Cummings said, with seven patients awaiting transfer.

Across the country, the threat of Covid-19, although significantly less than a year ago, remains.

Nearly 25,000 people were admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in the first week of November, according to CDC dataa pace that is forecast to hold steady for the next month, at least.

As multiple respiratory viruses continue to spread, experts stress the importance of vaccination, which is available for two of the three widely circulating viruses. But those numbers are lower than ideal.

One in 5 people has not yet received their first vaccine against covid-19, CDC data showsand less than 10% of the US population has received the updated Covid-19 booster.

And millions fewer flu shots have been distributed this season than at this point in previous years.

“When you have an early season, you worry that people just haven’t had time to get vaccinated,” Brammer said. “But the vaccine is the best tool we have to prevent these serious outcomes.”

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