Tracking Influenza, Covid-19, and RSV Hospitalizations in the United States

Tracking Influenza, Covid-19, and RSV Hospitalizations in the United States

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A severe respiratory virus season is underway in the United States, as flu and on respiratory syncytial virus came early and hit hard this year, straining the nation’s health care system and driving hospitalizations to rates not seen in years — even as Covid-19 continues spreading across the country.

As this historic season progresses, CNN will track the impact as updated disease data is released.

Influenza hospitalizations have increased this fall: The cumulative rate of hospitalizations per 100,000 residents compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eclipsed at least five of the past 12 seasons.

While the seven-day moving average of hospitalizations obtained by US Health and Human Services data has fallen in recent weeks, experts I warn a resurgence is possible as people travel and gather for the holidays.

Although Covid levels remain far below previous spikes, trends are definitely on the rise in the US, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. After a relatively calm summer, hospitalizations increased again from the beginning of November.

More than 100 million cases have been reported in the United States since the pandemic began. However, the actual number of cases is likely much higher because many people who are infected do not get tested or do not report the results of tests done at home. Because the number of cases is insufficient, hospitalization has become a better indicator of disease trends.

RSV hit particularly hard early this season as well, with hospitalization rates greater than the previous four seasons.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to RSV, and the virus has a particularly strong impact on children this season. The hospitalization rate for those under 5 years old has more than doubled from any season since 2018-2019 — when the CDC began tracking child-specific data.

The flu and other respiratory illnesses often have overlapping symptoms, such as congestion and cough. But some are unique. RSV, for example, can cause wheezing or decreased appetite, while Covid can cause shortness of breath. Testing can help determine which disease is present, which health experts say is helpful in making sure people get the right treatment in a timely manner. For example, the antiviral Tamiflu can help treat flu, while Paxlovide is available for Covid patients.

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