The rough respiratory virus season in the United States appears to be easing as the three major respiratory viruses that have hit the country over the past few months are finally trending downward together.
A new data set from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the combined flu, Covid-19, and RSV viruses have seen the lowest number of emergency department visits in three months. The decline is evident in all age groups.
Measuring viral infection levels can be difficult. Health officials agree that the number of Covid-19 cases is vastly underestimated and that surveillance systems used for influenza and RSV have a sizable but incomplete picture.
But experts say tracking emergency department visits could be a good indicator of how widespread and serious the respiratory virus season is.
“There’s a major complaint: when you show up in the emergency room, you complain about something,” said Janet Hamilton, executive director of the State and Territorial Council of Epidemiologists. “Being able to see the percentage of individuals seeking treatment in the emergency department for these respiratory concerns is a really good measure of respiratory season.”
The week after Thanksgiving, there were over 235,000 emergency room visits for respiratory viruses, according to CDC data. This is the same percentage as in January last year.
While the surge in emergency room visits earlier this year was almost entirely due to Omicron, the recent surge has been more diverse. In his week to Dec. 3, about two-thirds of the visitors had the flu, about a quarter his Covid-19, and about 10% his RSV.
Summarizing the effects of all respiratory viruses in this way provides an important perspective.
“There is a strong interest in thinking more holistically about respiratory disease,” Hamilton said. “The transmission is the same. It really helps people understand that there are steps that can be taken in general when respiratory disease circulation is high.”
Covid-19 now accounts for most emergency department visits again, but influenza and RSV are still the reasons behind about a third of visits, with the respiratory virus season picking up in September. It’s trending downward for the first time since I started.
More new data from the CDC show that overall respiratory virus activity continues to decline nationwide. Along with New York City and Washington, DC, he was the only four states with “high” levels of flu-like illness. Nearly every state was in this category within a month.
Influenza and Covid-19 vaccination coverage has lagged, and respiratory viruses can be so fickle that it is not yet known whether that pattern will continue. Although lower than before, most places are still above baseline, and hospitals across the country are still about 80% full.
RSV activity began to pick up in September and peaked in mid-November, with 5/100,000, or children under 5 years of age, reaching a 13-fold increase in a week.
RSV particularly affects children, with sales of over-the-counter pain and fever medicines for children up 65% in November from the previous year, according to the Consumer Health Products Association. “The worst may be over,” but demand is still high, CHPA spokesperson Logan Ramsey Tucker told his CNN in an email.
But according to CDC data, this RSV season is far worse than in recent years. His weekly RSV hospitalization rate has dropped to about a fifth of what he was two months ago, but is still higher than the previous season.
Influenza activity increased earlier than usual, but appears to have already peaked. Influenza hospitalizations — about 6,000 new hospitalizations last week — have fallen to a quarter of their peak a month and a half ago, and the total number of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths so far this season are in the range. staying inside. what you can expect. The US appears to have avoided the post-holiday surge some experts have warned about, but the flu is notoriously unpredictable, and it’s not uncommon to see her second surge late in the season. .
The Covid-19 surge was not as pronounced as the flu, but hospitalizations were above summer levels. But the increase in hospitalizations that began in November has started to taper in recent weeks, with CDC data showing that the percentage of the population living in counties with “high” Covid-19 community levels has fallen from 22% to about 6. Shows .% for the last two weeks.
Still, the XBB.1.5 variant—which has a key mutation that experts believe could help make it more infectious—continues to gain momentum in the United States, with the number of all infections last week increasing. Vaccine coverage continues to be low, with only 15% of the eligible population getting a renewed booster and nearly 1 in 5 not fully vaccinated. Hmm.
The ensemble forecast released by the CDC is vague, predicting a “stable or uncertain trend” in Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths over the next month.
And three years after the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in the United States, the virus is showing a predictable pattern, according to Dr. Maria Van Kerkhov, technical director of Covid-19 response at the World Health Organization. I’m not comfortable with
“We never had to face this level of death and devastation, but we are dealing with it and doing our best to minimize the impact of what’s to come,” Van Kerhof said this week. told Conversation on the Healthcare Podcast.
Van Kerkhove said he believes 2023 could be the year Covid-19 is no longer considered a public health emergency in the United States and around the world. More work needs to be done to make it last longer. – Management of long-term respiratory illness in outbreaks takes more time.
“We just don’t use [vaccines] most effectively around the world. That means 30% of her in the world has not yet received a single vaccine,” she said. “Every country in the world, including the United States, is missing a key demographic.”