Influenza and other respiratory virus activity continues to increase in the US


Seventeen states, including Washington, D.C. and New York City, are experiencing high or very high respiratory disease activity during the flu season, which is hitting harder and earlier than usual, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu activity continues to rise in the U.S. So far this season, the number of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths has nearly doubled in the past week. The CDC estimates that there have been at least 1.6 million illnesses, 13,000 hospitalizations and 730 deaths from the flu, including two deaths among children this season. About one in 11 flu tests were positive last week.

It’s been more than a decade – since the H1N1 swine flu pandemic – that flu hospitalization rates have been so high at this point in the season. The latest update from the CDC continues to track data through October 29.

Flu activity is greatest in the South, Mid-Atlantic and parts of the West Coast. Data from Walgreens, which tracks prescriptions for antiviral treatments such as Tamiflu, suggests there are hot spots in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as along the Gulf Coast, 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 adults and children.

RSV hospitalization rates in the US have already reached levels not typically seen until December. They are growing in all age groups, but especially among children.

This season, about four out of every 1,000 babies under 6 months old have been hospitalized with RSV so far, just one month. More than two out of every 1,000 children aged 6 months to 1 year have been hospitalized with RSV this season. as, more than one in 1,000 children between the ages of one and two have it.

Overall, in the US, one in five PCR tests for RSV was positive in the week ending October 29, nearly doubling over the course of the month.

Weekly case counts are less complete in current weeks, but more RSV cases have been detected each week in October 2022 by PCR testing than in any other week in at least the past two years. The number of weekly cases in the week ending October 22 was more than double that of any other week in 2020 or 2021.

There are signs that RSV cases are slowing in the southern region of the US, but test positivity rates and cases continue to rise in other regions, particularly in the Midwest.

And pediatric hospitals remain fuller than average with patients with RSV and other conditions. According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, more than three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds and pediatric ICU beds nationwide are being used, compared to an average of about two-thirds over the past two years.

As of Friday, seventeen states have fewer than one in five beds available. Five of them are more than 90% full: Rhode Island, Arizona, Maine, Minnesota and Delaware, along with Washington DC.