The U.S. influenza season is underway, with at least seven states reporting high levels of illnesses and cases rising in other parts of the country, according to recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.
"Seasonal influenza activity continues to increase in most parts of the country, most notably in the South Central, Southeast, and West Coast regions," the CDC said.
The percentage of outpatient visits for influenza or flu-like illnesses stands at 3.5 percent, and was characterized by a recent University of Minnesota release as "at or above baselines in 5 of 10 U.S. regions."
Meanwhile, the data shows that the percentage of respiratory specimens that were positive for flu rose to 4 percent, or up from 3 percent the prior week. "Among positive samples at public health labs, 75.8 percent were influenza A, and, of subtyped specimens, 87.2 percent were the 2009 H1N1 strain," according to the release.
Hospitalization rates are the highest among elderly people and children aged 4 and younger, it shows. So far, only one pediatric flu death has been reported this season and none were reported in the last week by the CDC.
Generally, the winter flu season ramps up in December or January. But it took off in October last year and is making a November entrance this year.
Influenza activity was moderate but rising in New York City, Arkansas, California, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. And while flu activity has been high in Alaska for weeks, the state did not report data last week, so it wasn’t part of the latest count.
So far this fall, the CDC estimates at least 780,000 flu illnesses, at least 8,000 hospitalizations, and at least 490 flu-related deaths.
Alicia Budd, who leads the CDC’s flu surveillance team, told The Associated Press that several indicators are showing “continued increases” in flu. There are different kinds of flu viruses, and the version that’s been spreading the most so far this year usually leads to a lesser amount of hospitalizations and deaths in the elderly—the group on whom flu tends to take the largest toll.
The CDC has long recommended influenza vaccines for virtually every American over the age of 6 months.
"A combination of factors might have affected the decline in influenza vaccination coverage among HCP during the COVID-19 pandemic," said the CDC. "Similar decreases in influenza vaccination observed among HCP in other countries have been attributed to COVID-19 vaccination campaigns leading to decreased emphasis on influenza vaccination and vaccine fatigue from having received multiple COVID-19 vaccines."
COVID CasesMeanwhile, after a recent dip in hospitalizations and cases, CDC data show that COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise again across the United States.
RSV CasesAs for RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, cases in the United States started an upward trend in mid-October. There were 4,952 cases detected via CDC testing on the week ending Nov. 4
RSV cases in the United States began a sharp upward trend in the middle of October and were at the highest level since January last winter with 4,952 cases detected through testing in the week ended Nov. 4, according to the CDC website.