Nearly 20,000 people in the United States were admitted to the hospital for flu last week, almost double the number of admissions from the week before, according to data updated Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC estimates there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from influenza so far this season.
Flu activity has been highest in the South, with hotspots spreading from El Paso to southwest Virginia, and all but six states are experiencing “high” or “very high” respiratory virus levels, and seasonal flu activity remains “high and continues to increase,” according to the CDC.
There have been nearly 17 flu hospitalizations for every 100,000 people, rates typically seen in December or January. The cumulative hospitalization rate hasn’t been this high at this point in the season in more than a decade.
The latest surveillance data likely does not yet reflect the full effects of holiday gatherings, as it only captures through November 26 – two days past Thanksgiving.
While flu continues to ramp up, RSV has shown signs of slowing nationwide, but test positivity rates are still higher than they’ve been in years, and cumulative hospitalization rates are about 10 times higher than typical for this point in the season. Less than two months in, the RSV hospitalization rate this season is already nearing the total RSV hospitalization rate from the entire 2018-19 season.
There is no vaccine for RSV, but health officials have urged people to get their flu shots and updated Covid-19 boosters heading into winter. With the holiday season – and flu season – underway, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned this week of the potential for an emergency situation.
“When you have very little wiggle room of intensive care beds, when you have like almost all the intensive care beds that are occupied, it’s bad for the children who have RSV and need intensive care. But it also occupies all the beds, and children who have a number of other diseases that require intensive care or ICU, they don’t have the bed for it,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “So if you get to that situation, that’s approaching an emergency.”