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Flu hospitalizations increase nearly 30% as U.S. enters holiday season

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Susana Sanchez, a Nurse Practitioner, administers a flu vaccination to Loisy Barrera at a CVS pharmacy and MinuteClinic in Miami, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Flu hospitalizations have increased nearly 30% in per week because the spread of respiratory illnesses stays high across a lot of the U.S.

Greater than 11,200 people were hospitalized with the flu through the week ending Nov. 19, in comparison with about 8,700 patients admitted through the prior week, in line with data from the Health and Human Services Department.

Flu has hit unusually hard and early this season, putting pressure on emergency departments across the nation. Flu activity normally picks up after Thanksgiving, but hospitalizations were already at a decade high in early November.

Scientists and public health experts are apprehensive flu hospitalizations will surge much more after tens of millions traveled to see family and friends for Thanksgiving. Christmas can also be just weeks away, giving the flu with one other opportunity to spread widely.

About 11 people out of each 100,000 have been hospitalized with the flu since early October, the very best level in a decade. Greater than 6.2 million people have fallen in poor health, 53,000 have been hospitalized, and a pair of,900 have died this season, in line with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The indisputable fact that we’re already at this high level going¬†into the vacation season makes me nervous,” said Scott Hensley, a microbiologist and flu expert on the Penn Institute for Immunology.

Hensley said flu is hitting harder earlier this yr because population immunity might be at its lowest level in recent history. Flu principally didn’t flow into for 2 years on account of the masking and social distancing measures put in place during Covid, he said. Because of this, large swaths of the population didn’t get an immunity boost from infection in order that they could also be more vulnerable to flu this yr than in past seasons.

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Seniors and kids under age five are probably the most vulnerable, with hospitalization rates about double the national average. A flu variant that is more severe for the elderly can also be dominant without delay, which implies the U.S. might be in for a tricky season. Greater than 60% of flu samples tested by public health labs were positive for the influenza A(H3N2) strain, in line with CDC.

“It’s a well described phenomenon. H3N2 has a more severe impact on older individuals so more hospitalization, ICU admissions and deaths,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University.

Flu vaccines typically aren’t as effective against H3N2, though there’s hope that this season might prove different. The vast majority of flu viruses tested are much like the strains included on this yr’s vaccine, in line with the CDC.

Vaccine efficacy data hasn’t been published yet, however the shots normally perform higher after they are matched well to the circulating variants. Flu vaccine efficacy has ranged widely from 19% to 60% in past seasons depending on how well the shots were matched to the strains circulating.

“From what we are able to see, it looks just like the vaccines are pretty darn good matches to what’s circulating,” Hensley said. “If there’s ever a time to get vaccinated, that is the yr to do it,” he said.

Flu activity was highest within the Southeast in past weeks, but a lot of the country is now seeing high levels of illness, in line with CDC.

Flu activity is moderate or low in Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Latest Hampshire, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Wyoming.

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