Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the flu is on the rise in the United States, with 44 states experiencing high levels.
The agency said 31 US jurisdictions, which include territories and the District of Columbia, had “very high” levels, while 16 areas had “high” levels as of Nov. 26. Only Alaska, Vermont and Michigan have reported low flu transmission, while West Virginia and Hawaii are seeing moderate levels.
According to the CDC, eleven states, including California, Texas and Virginia, have the highest level of respiratory disease activity. CDC officials said 7.5% of outpatient medical visits last week were caused by flu-like illnesses.
“Seasonal influenza activity is high and continues to increase across the country,” the CDC also said. “The number of hospital admissions for influenza reported in the [Health and Human Services] The protection system in week 47 almost doubled compared to week 46,” he added.
The CDC estimates there have been at least 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from the flu so far this season. The deaths include at least 14 children.
A busy flu season is not unexpected. The United States has had two mild seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic, while some doctors have said pandemic-related rules have exacerbated this year’s flu spike.
At the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, beds were reportedly full for 54 straight days. “The curves are all up for RSV and influenza,” said Dr. John Cunningham, Comer’s chief medical officer.
At the same time, some officials believe RSV infections have increased recently because children are now more vulnerable, no longer immune to common insects as they were during pandemic lockdowns. In addition, the virus, which usually affects children between 1 and 2 years old, is now making children up to 5 years old sicker.
Usually, RSV is a common and mild virus, but millions of children encounter it later in life due to pandemic-related stay-at-home orders and virtual learning rules.
The dominant flu strain so far is one that is generally associated with higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths, especially among people 65 and older, according to the CDC.
Authorities also said there had been shortages of Tamiflu, amoxicillin and other drugs in recent weeks. There have also been sporadic reports of a shortage of children’s Tylenol, although its manufacturer has said there is no shortage.
According to GoodRx, a company that helps people find prescription drug discounts, prescription fills for Tamiflu are high for this time of year. Several different products from Tamiflu, or oseltamivir, are affected, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) said via its database.
“Right now we have severe drug shortages. There is no Tamiflu for children. There is practically no Tamiflu for adults. And it’s brand name and generic,” Oklahoma City pharmacist Renae Kraft, adding, “As far as antibiotics go, there aren’t a lot of them.”
“In my 25 years as a pediatrician, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Minnesota pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Stacene Maroushe told CNN late last month. “I’ve seen families who just don’t have a break. They have one viral disease after another. And now there is the side effect of ear infections and pneumonia which lead to amoxicillin shortages.
Some parents have reported on social media that they are having trouble finding children’s Tylenol, which is used to reduce fever, in various places. Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer, disputed those reports several weeks ago and said it had seen no evidence of a shortage.
“We are not experiencing a shortage of children’s Tylenol in the United States,” Johnson & Johnson told the Daily Mail last month. “There is increased consumer demand for our children’s pain relief products in some regions and we are taking all possible steps to ensure product availability.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also not reported a shortage of Tylenol or other over-the-counter medications. Erin Fox, head of the University of Utah’s drug information service, told the Washington Post last week that the extent of the shortages was unclear.
“There are definitely distribution and supply chain issues,” she told the newspaper, adding that “the shortages appear to be primarily a spike in demand and should resolve relatively quickly.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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