In the year On November 4, 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published their weekly influenza surveillance report for the 43-week period (October 23, 2022 to October 29, 2022). With a total of 4,326 hospitalizations in the 43rd week, a cumulative hospitalization rate of 2.9/100,000, influenza infection and hospitalization rates are increasing alarmingly fast and early this year.
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Early and high rate of flu
As of this report’s publication, more than 1.6 million cases of the flu have been reported in the US during the 2022-2023 influenza season. Of these cases, 13,000 patients required hospitalization and 730 people died from the flu.
Some of the most affected US regions include the Southeast and South-Central such as South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, North Carolina, Alabama and Virginia. Maryland, New York City and Washington, D.C. are reporting high levels of influenza-like illnesses compared to the same time last year.
We are seeing the highest hospitalization rates since a decade ago.
The threat of the ‘triple-demic’
Like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which has been infecting an unusually high number of children compared to previous years, cases of influenza have remained relatively clear during the 2019 (Covid-19) coronavirus pandemic. This is mainly because lockdowns and other preventive measures implemented throughout the outbreak prevented many from being exposed to these and other respiratory viruses.
In addition to the already high rates of RSV and flu, the number of people infected with Covid-19 is expected to increase this year due to the transfer of more people at home and the emergence of new escape variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
Taken together, the spread of these three viruses this season could lead to a ‘triple-demic’, possibly adding to the burden on already weakened healthcare systems. Despite the added pressure of these new hospitals in some states, adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilation supplies are available for immediate use.
How to protect yourself this winter
The US CDC recommends that people over six months of age be vaccinated against both the influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses.
Current data indicate that this year’s influenza vaccine contains influenza A(H3N2) viruses that are genetically and antigenically similar to currently circulating strains that should provide adequate protection against severe disease and/or infection. An increasing number of influenza A(H1N1) viruses included in the annual influenza vaccine have also been reported nationally.
Similarly, a new COVID-19 bivalent messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine booster dose has been approved for use in anyone over the age of five in the U.S. This booster dose appears to protect against severe disease after both ancestors contracted SARS. -CoV-2 strain, as well as the currently dominant Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
Despite these vaccinations, the vaccination rate this year is relatively low. In fact, up to five million fewer flu vaccine doses have been given in the U.S. so far this year compared to the same period last year. Similarly, as of October 12, 2022, only 11.5 million Americans have received the updated Covid-19 booster. Size.
In addition to the importance of flu and SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, people should continue to practice good hygiene, including washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when sick, and avoiding close contact with people with symptoms.
Some antiviral drugs are also available to treat patients with severe illness after infection with both viruses. Currently, the CDC recommends that anyone with a confirmed or suspected influenza infection who is at risk of complications and/or hospitalized be given an influenza antiviral immediately. Some of the most common antiviral drugs used to treat influenza infections in the US include oseltamivir or baloxavir.
Similar recommendations are made for the treatment of patients with suspected or confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection who are at risk of severe disease and meet current eligibility criteria for receiving these agents. Currently, ritonavir and remdesivir have been used successfully to treat mild to moderate covid-19 in high-risk patients.