Flu hospitalizations at the highest level in a decade at start of holiday season

Vaccinations
Several flu vaccines are lined up in a pan at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans’ Community Resource Center where they were offering members and the public free flu and COVID-19 vaccines Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Lynwood, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) Mark J. Terrill/AP

Flu hospitalizations at the highest level in a decade at start of holiday season

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Flu hospitalizations in the U.S. remain at the highest level in a decade as 47 states and territories report “high” or “very high” levels of flu activity at the start of the holiday season.

Flu-associated hospital admissions for the week of Thanksgiving nearly doubled over the previous week and were the highest observed for that period since the 2010-2011 season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“This year’s flu season is off to a rough start,” Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, board chairwoman of the American Medical Association, said at a media briefing Monday. “Flu is here. It started early, and with COVID and RSV also circulating, it’s a perfect storm for a terrible holiday season.”

Roughly 19,500 patients were admitted to hospitals with the flu in the week ending on Nov. 26. The CDC estimates that there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 deaths from the flu so far this season, including 14 pediatric deaths. Case numbers are nearing the 9 million flu cases that were estimated for the entire 2021-2022 season.

The highest hospitalization rates were among adults aged 65 and older, followed by children four years and under.

Approximately 77% of inpatient hospital beds across the country are occupied, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the early surge in flu cases comes as hospitals continue to grapple with other respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, noting that the spread of RSV appears to be slowing in the South and Southeast.

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“The rise in cases and hospitalizations is especially worrisome as we move into the winter months when more people are assembling indoors, with less ventilation, and as we approach the holiday season, where many are gathering with loved ones across multiple generations,” said Walensky.

The officials encouraged people ages 6 months and older to receive flu vaccines to help prevent serious illness.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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