People walk by a mobile coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing center near Port Authority bus terminal in New York City, US, Oct 26, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

LOS ANGELES – The United States continues to see an unusual and early spike in flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections on top of a new wave of COVID-19 cases, which overwhelm healthcare facilities nationwide.

Over 4,300 influenza patients were admitted to hospitals in the week ending Oct 29, the highest for that time period in a decade and nearly double the prior week, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While flu season is usually between October and May, peaking in December and January, this year’s flu season began six weeks earlier, at a level not seen since the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic, according to the CDC.

There have been at least 1,600,000 illnesses, 13,000 hospitalizations, and 730 deaths from flu so far this season in the United States, CDC data showed.

“It’s unusual, but we’re coming out of an unusual COVID pandemic that has really affected influenza and other respiratory viruses that are circulating,” said Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist who heads the CDC’s domestic influenza surveillance team.

Flu activity continue to increase nationwide, according to the CDC. The southeastern and south-central areas of the country are reporting the highest levels of activity followed by the Mid-Atlantic and the south-central West Coast regions.

Meanwhile, RSV, a common cause of cold-like symptoms in children, continues to rise nationally and strain children’s hospitals.

Experts are concerned about the confluence of influenza, RSV and coronavirus, warning grim threats from a “tripledemic”.

Health officials are bracing for the possibility that COVID-19 again overwhelms hospitals, depending on which new variants become dominant, “because governments have abandoned efforts to limit transmission and few senior citizens, who are most susceptible to severe disease, are up-to-date on their shots,” said a report of The Washington Post.

New Omicron subvariants have led to increasing COVID-19 infections in the United States, with BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 accounting for over 35 percent of new cases last week, according to the latest CDC data.

The two new variants have been growing especially fast since October. At the beginning of October, each one accounted for about 1 percent of new infections in the United States, but they have been roughly doubling in prevalence each week.

Across the country, pediatric bed occupancy is the highest it’s been in two years, with 78 percent of the estimated 40,000 beds filled with patients, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“With increased RSV infections, a rising number of flu cases and the ongoing burden of COVID-19 in our communities, there’s no doubt we will face some challenges this winter,” said Dawn O’Connell, assistant HHS secretary for preparedness and response.


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