Americans came together for Thanksgiving last week amid a worse than flu season everything has been in more than a decade, and experts continue to urge caution as several respiratory viruses circulate at high levels across the country.
A growing number of U.S. states — now 33 — are experiencing “high” or “very high” respiratory virus activity, and seasonal influenza activity continues to be “elevated nationwide,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States.
In the week ending November 19, nearly one in 10 deaths nationwide (9.4%) were due to pneumonia, influenza or Covid-19 – well above baseline seasonal about 6%. And the CDC estimates there have been at least 6.2 million illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from the flu this season.
Influenza and RSV, another respiratory virus that particularly affects children, have hit harder and earlier than usual this season after the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the past two seasons and as the country relaxes restrictions. preventative measures.
As the flu continues to escalate, RSV has shown signs of slowing nationwide, but test positivity rates are still higher than they have been in years, and rates cumulative hospitalizations are about 10 times higher than the average at this stage of the season. Less than two months later, the RSV hospitalization rate this season is already close to the total RSV hospitalization rate of the entire 2018-19 season.
Thousands of people are still dying from Covid-19 every week as well.
The latest monitoring data does not capture the week of Thanksgiving or the effects of holiday gatherings. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 hit record highs during last year’s holiday season – and this holiday season could also lead to an increase in the spread.
Although experts expect this year to be better than the last, they stressed the importance of preventive measures in the days leading up to Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of all respiratory diseases.
“We have seen, in some areas, RSV numbers are starting to drop. The flu numbers are still on the rise. And we are concerned that after the holiday gathering, many people gather, we may also see an increase in Covid-19 cases,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week on CNN. “It’s all in a summary to say do everything you can to prevent it by getting vaccinated.”
CDC data shows that only 12% of eligible people in the United States have received their updated Covid-19 booster, and about 1 in 5 people in the country are still unvaccinated. Flu shots are also lagging behind, with millions fewer vaccinations at this point in the season than in the past two years.
There is no vaccine to protect against RSV, however, and children’s hospitals remain fuller than usual despite improving trends in the spread of the virus.
Children’s hospital beds have been fuller than usual for months. Children’s health officials this month called for a formal declaration of emergency from the federal government to support hospitals and communities amid an “alarming increase in pediatric respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus ( RSV) and influenza, as well as the ongoing children’s mental health emergency.”
With the holiday season – and flu season – underway, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned of the potential for an emergency.
“When you have very little wiggle room for ICU beds, when you have like almost all ICU beds that are occupied, that’s bad for kids who have RSV and need intensive care. . But it also takes up all the beds, and children who have a number of other illnesses that require intensive care or intensive care, they don’t have the bed for that,” said Fauci, director of the Institute. National Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “So if you get to this situation, it’s approaching an emergency.”
Still, Dr Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said he was confident the United States would ride out the wave of respiratory viruses.
“In terms of hospital capacity, we have been in contact with all the jurisdictions in the country. We’ve been very clear, if you need additional help, the federal government is ready to help, ready to send support personnel, ready to support, send additional supplies,” Jha said on CNN the last week. “I’m confident we’ll get through this, especially if people step in and protect their families by getting the Covid and flu shots.”
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