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Respiratory virus hospitalisations on the rise across US following holiday gatherings

Hospitalisations are on the rise as many have not gotten vaccinated this season

Kelly Rissman
Wednesday 03 January 2024 19:32 GMT
US experiencing increase in COVID, flu and RSV

A trifecta of respiratory viruses left hospitals packed across the US in late December — and the number of those seeking healthcare will likely continue to rise following holiday gatherings, data suggests.

During the week leading up to Christmas, ending on 23 December, there were more than 29,000 hospitalizations resulting from Covid-19, up nearly 17 per cent from the week prior, according to Center for Disease Control data.

Similarly, that same week almost 15,000 patients were admitted with the flu, a 16 per cent increase from the week before, and even more have been admitted with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Although of the three viruses, Covid-19 is the biggest culprit for sending patients to the hospital, hospitalisations from the flu are on the rise.

The CDC estimated that more than 7 million cases of the flu this season, adding that there have been about 73,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths as a result of the illness.

That same week, Covid-19 hospitalizations made up 3.3 per cent of hospital bed occupancy across the country, while the flu hospitalizations made up 1.3 per cent.

On 29 December, the CDC also noted an uptick in people seeking healthcare due to RSV.

“It’s a wave of winter respiratory pathogens, especially respiratory viruses. So it’s Covid, it’s flu, and we can’t diminish the importance of RSV,” Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN.

He added, “So it’s a triple threat, and arguably a fourth threat because we also have pneumococcal pneumonia, which complicates a lot of these virus infections.”

Since these statistics reflect illnesses before the holidays, Mr Hortez expected to see a “bigger bump” heading into January.

Hospitalizations are on the rise as many have not gotten vaccinated this season.

As of 23 December, the data shows, 44 per cent of those over 18 have received the flu vaccine, but only 19 per cent of those over 18 received the latest Covid-19 shot, and a mere 17 per cent over 60 have received the RSV vaccine.

“We have, as a population, underutilized both influenza and the updated Covid vaccines, unfortunately,” Dr William Schaffner, an expert in infectious disease at Vanderbilt University, told the outlet. “But it’s not too late to get vaccinated, because these viruses are going to be around for a while yet.”

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