Covid and flu hospitalizations rise, RSV falls
Hospitalizations for Covid and flu are rising while respiratory syncytial virus appears to be retreating in some states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday.
As millions of people prepare to travel and gather for the holidays, public health officials are concerned the worst is yet to come.
Hospitals are facing the simultaneous threat of Covid, flu and RSV for the first time this winter. The spread of influenza and RSV has been very low during the pandemic due to widespread masking and social distancing implemented in response to Covid.
But while most people are returning to normal life, traveling and congregating largely unmasked, all three viruses are widespread. Public health officials have said many people are likely more susceptible to the flu and RSV this year because they haven’t contracted it in the past two years, meaning their immunity is lower.
With Covid, many people are out of date with their vaccines, meaning their immunity is waning at a time when more infectious omicron subvariants have risen to dominance.
“The last few years have certainly not been easy, and we are now facing another wave of disease,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, told reporters on Monday. “Another moment of overwhelmed capacity and truly a tragic and often avoidable sadness.”
More than 25,000 people were hospitalized with the flu in the week ended Dec. 3, a 32% increase from the previous week, according to a report released Friday by the CDC.
The hospitalization rate for the flu remains at its highest level in a decade for this time of year, according to the CDC. At least 13 million people have contracted the flu, 120,000 people have been hospitalized and 7,300 people have died.
Week-over-week hospital admissions for people with Covid have increased by about 14% to an average of more than 4,800 admissions per day, according to CDC data. More than 50% of people hospitalized with Covid are aged 70 and over.
Walensky on Monday gave strong encouragement to everyone who is eligible to get their Covid booster and flu shots. There is no vaccine against RSV.
The CDC director also encouraged people to wear masks to reduce the spread of respiratory illness, particularly those living in areas with high levels of Covid community.
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, about 80% of hospital beds in the United States are currently occupied as respiratory illnesses increase. According to the data, about 76% of children’s hospital beds are currently occupied. But in eight states, more than 90% of pediatric beds are occupied.