Flu hospitalization rate highest in a decade, kids and seniors most at risk

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. faces the highest flu hospitalizations in more than a decade, with children and the elderly most at risk.

Flu and respiratory syncytial virus had disappeared during the Covid-19 pandemic due to mitigating measures such as masks and social distancing. But as people return to their normal routines and socialize without masks, the viruses are making a big comeback.

According to CDC data, 1.6 million people have fallen ill with the flu so far this season, 13,000 have been hospitalized and 730 have died.

About 3 patients are currently hospitalized with the flu for every 100,000 people with the virus, which is the highest rate since 2010. The current number of hospital admissions is almost five times higher than during the last pre-pandemic season in 2019.

Seniors and children under age 5 are currently most at risk, with hospitalizations roughly double the general population, according to CDC data.

“There are also early signs of flu causing severe illness in exactly these two groups of individuals,” Dr. Jose Romero, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters at a briefing Friday.

In the southeastern U.S., about 20% of breath samples test positive for a strain of flu called H3N2 that has historically been linked to more serious illness in children and the elderly, Romero said. H1N1 flu viruses are circulating in the mid-Atlantic and Midwest, he said.

Cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are also currently on the rise in nearly every region of the US, Romero said. However, in most of the south and parts of the west, RSV is trending downward and the flu is now on the rise, he said.

RSV is a common virus that most children get before they are two years old. It normally causes cold symptoms but can also lead to a serious illness requiring hospitalization of infants and the elderly.

Romero said mitigation measures taken during Covid have not infected much of the US population with other common respiratory viruses, and as a result, these viruses are now on the rise as young children, in particular, lack immunity from previous infections.

The federal government is willing to send medical teams and provide supplies from the strategic national supply if hospitals exceed capacity, said Dawn O’Connell, a senior official in the Department of Health and Human Services. No state has so far requested such aid, O’Connell said.

Romero called on everyone eligible to get their annual flu shot and Covid booster dose. Children under age 8 who are first given the flu vaccine should receive two doses for the best protection, he said. There is no vaccine that protects against RSV.

Romero also urged people to take everyday precautions, such as covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and washing your hands regularly.

It is often difficult to tell the difference between flu, RSV and Covid symptoms. Romero said parents should seek immediate medical attention for their children if they exhibit any of the following warning signs: difficulty breathing, bluish lips or bluish face, chest or muscle pain, dehydration (dry mouth, crying without tears, or not urinating for hours on end), or not alert or interactive when awake.

White House Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anthony Fauci, also warned this week that the number of deaths from Covid is still far too high. Fauci said the US is at a crossroads with ommicron subvariants emerging resistant to key antibody treatments that protect the most vulnerable.

Fauci warned that hospitals could face a “negative trifecta” this winter from emerging Covid variants, flu and RSV.

“It’s going to be very confusing and could even put a strain on the hospital system, especially for the pediatric population,” Fauci said.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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