Seventeen states, Washington, DC and New York, are reporting high or very high respiratory disease activity amid a flu season that is hitting harder and earlier than usual, according to data released Friday by the Centers for United States Disease Control and Prevention.
Influenza activity continues to increase in the United States – the number of influenza cases, hospitalizations and deaths so far this season has nearly doubled over the past week. The CDC now estimates there have been at least 1.6 million illnesses, 13,000 hospitalizations and 730 deaths from the flu, including two reported deaths in children so far this season. About one in 11 flu tests were positive last week.
It has been more than a decade – since the H1N1 swine flu pandemic – that flu hospitalization rates have been this high at this point in the season. The CDC’s latest update tracks data through Oct. 29.
Influenza activity is highest in the south, followed by the mid-Atlantic and parts of the west coast. Data from Walgreens tracking prescriptions for antiviral treatments — such as Tamiflu — suggests there are hotspots in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as the Gulf Coast region, including Houston and New Orleans.
RSV hospitalizations were also significantly higher than usual, according to another weekly update released by the CDC on Thursday.
RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common respiratory infection that usually causes mild cold-like symptoms, but can cause serious illness, especially in the elderly and infants.
Cumulative RSV hospitalization rates have already reached levels not typically seen until December in the United States. They increase in all age groups, but especially in children.
About four in 1,000 babies under 6 months old have been hospitalized with RSV so far this season – just a month later. More than two in 1,000 babies between six months and one year old have been hospitalized with RSV so far this season, as have more than one in 1,000 children between one and two years old.
Overall in the United States, nearly one in five PCR tests for RSV were positive for the week ending October 29, nearly doubling during the month.
The weekly case count is less complete for the most recent weeks, but there were more RSV cases detected by PCR testing each week in October 2022 than any other week in at least the past two years. The number of weekly cases for the week ending October 22 was more than double any other week in 2020 or 2021.
There are signs that RSV cases are slowing in the southern region of the United States, but test positivity rates and cases continue to rise in other regions, particularly the Midwest.
And children’s hospitals remain fuller than average with patients with RSV and other conditions. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds and pediatric intensive care beds are currently in use nationwide, compared to an average of about two-thirds full in the over the past two years.
As of Friday, seventeen states had less than one in five beds available. Five of them are more than 90% full: Rhode Island, Arizona, Maine, Minnesota and Delaware, as well as Washington, DC.