Respiratory illnesses, including influenza, COVID-19, and RSV, have seen a significant increase throughout the United States during the holiday season, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC report reveals a 16% rise in positive influenza tests and a surge in reports of other respiratory illnesses across the country. Thirteen states, including Tennessee and New York City, are experiencing “very high” levels of respiratory illness, while 18 states and Washington, D.C. have “high” levels.
To better illustrate the severity of the situation, the CDC has released a map showing the spread of respiratory illness in each state. Darker shades of red on the map indicate a higher prevalence of sickness.
Alarming figures reveal that seven states – Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Tennessee – have reached level 13, the highest tier of respiratory illness tracked by the CDC. On the other hand, Alaska and North Dakota failed to provide sufficient data to the CDC.
Flu activity levels are determined by comparing current data from healthcare providers with the normal levels expected for that area outside of flu season. It is important to note that the data is based on individuals reporting flu-like symptoms to healthcare facilities and does not solely rely on lab-confirmed cases. This means that the reported cases could include COVID-19 or RSV, or it might even underreport instances where people are managing their illness at home.
Making matters more complex is the fact that the overlapping symptoms of COVID-19, RSV, and influenza make it difficult to determine the specific illness without conducting a test. This further complicates the situation and potentially contributes to the increased spread of these respiratory illnesses.
The flu, in particular, has proven to be a significant threat to vulnerable populations such as the elderly, immunocompromised individuals, and young children. This season alone, approximately 4,500 deaths have been attributed to the flu, including 20 children.
As the situation continues to develop, health officials are urging the public to take necessary precautions to prevent the further spread of respiratory illnesses. Practicing good hygiene, wearing masks, social distancing, and getting vaccinated against influenza are highly recommended measures to protect oneself and others.
This article contains information from the Associated Press.