An early flu season adds to the woes of American hospitals

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As Americans head into the holiday season, the fast-growing flu season is straining hospitals already overwhelmed by patients sickened by other respiratory infections.

More than half of the states have high or very high levels of influenza, unusually high for this early in the season, the government said Friday. These 27 states are mostly in the South and Southwest, but have growing numbers in the Northeast, Midwest, and West.

This comes as children’s hospitals are already dealing with a spate of illnesses caused by RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of cold symptoms that can be severe in infants and the elderly. And COVID-19 is still contributing to more than 3,000 hospitalizations each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Atlanta, Dr. Mark Griffiths describes the mix as “viral jambalaya”. He said the children’s hospitals in his area have at least 30% more patients than usual this time of year, with many patients forced to wait in emergency rooms for beds to open.

“I tell parents that COVID was the ultimate bully. He bullied every other virus for two years,” said Griffiths, an ER physician at Children’s Hospital in downtown Atlanta.

With the COVID-19 rate dropping, “they’re coming back full force,” he said

The winter flu season usually doesn’t start until December or January. Hospitalization rates for the flu haven’t been this high this early since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, CDC officials say. The highest rates are among those 65 and older and children under 5, the agency said.

“It’s so important for people at higher risk to get vaccinated,” the CDC’s Lynnette Brammer said in a statement Friday.

But flu vaccinations are down from other years, especially among adults, possibly because the past two seasons have been mild. Flu shots are recommended for almost all Americans who are at least 6 months of age or older.

Adults can get RSV, too, and this infection can be especially dangerous for older adults who are frail or have chronic medical conditions, doctors say. There is no vaccine against RSV yet, although some are in development.

One infectious disease expert urged Americans to take precautions before gathering for Thanksgiving, including avoiding general crowds, getting tested for COVID-19 before gathering and wearing masks indoors — especially if you’re old or frail, or will be around someone who is

“No one wants to bring a virus to the table,” said Dr. William Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association this week called on the Biden administration to declare a state of emergency and establish a national response to the “alarming increase in pediatric respiratory disease.” Development requirements so doctors and hospitals could share resources and access emergency funding, the groups said in a letter.

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Quotation: ‘Viral jambalaya’: Early flu adds to doom for US hospitals (2022, November 18) Retrieved November 18, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-11-viral-jambalaya-early-flu-adding .html

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