RSV and flu cases drop in the US, tripledemia ‘has peaked’
It appears that the feared ‘triple epidemic’ in the US will be short-lived, with weekly numbers for influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) already on the decline.
Today’s weekly flu report shows that there were just over 30,000 confirmed flu infections nationwide for the week ending December 10.
While this is preliminary data, it is a 30 percent drop from the previous week and the first time cases have declined since the start of the flu season.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ashish Jha told a White House news conference on Thursday that RSV infections had already peaked and numbers began to decline “quite quickly.”
The news will be a relief as it looks like covid may be on the rise once again, and a new disease emerges with an outbreak of the Strep A bacterial infection.
Flu cases fell 30 percent week-over-week, from 43,960 last week to 31,287 this week. It’s another sign that America’s ‘triple epidemic’ has passed its peak.
RSV cases continued to decline in the latest CDC update. The nation recorded 4,391 new infections during the week ending December 10, the lowest total since late September.
Fears about the so-called ‘triple epidemic’ first arose during the summer when Australia and New Zealand, whose winter coincides with the US summer, suffered devastating flu seasons.
Experts have pointed to lockdowns, mask mandates and other pandemic orders over the past two years as the reason this year’s flu season has been more brutal than previous ones.
This is the worst flu season the United States has experienced since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, and experts have warned for months that it would be a long, harsh winter.
At one point earlier this month, hospitals were more crowded than ever during the pandemic.
In Los Angeles, New York City and some parts of Washington state, officials have even recommended the return of masks in indoor public places.
The latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that there were 31,287 cases of the flu last week, a massive underestimate because many cases go unnoticed while Americans endure virus symptoms at home.
The CDC reports that 25.4 percent of tests for the flu came back positive last week, matching the figure for the previous week.
For the week ending December 3, a new seasonal high of 43,960 flu cases were confirmed in the US.
The flu does not pose a danger to most Americans, but it can often affect the elderly, young children, and those who are immunocompromised.
Last week, CDC officials announced that there were 9 million confirmed cases of flu, 7,800 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from the virus each year this season.
The spread of the virus has slowed in recent weeks. From the week ending October 15 to the week ending November 12, flu infections in the United States increased sevenfold, from 2,716 to 19,288 per week.
Over the past month, from November 12 to December 10, cases have increased 62 percent.
Week over week, cases rose 48 percent from November 19 to 26, from 25,990 to 37,280 confirmed.
However, the growth in cases slowed at the end of November, rising just 16 percent to 43,960 from the week ending November 26 to December 3.
The CDC estimates that only half of the US states are experiencing high flu activity, up from 44 out of 50 just two weeks ago.
The CDC reports that 25 states are experiencing “very high” levels of flu circulation, and eight states have reached the highest level the agency tracks.
The CDC reports that eight states experience the highest level of activity: Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Washington. Last week, 10 states met the criteria.
The flu wasn’t the only annual virus to surge again this fall, only to now be on the decline after a late-fall spike.
The CDC recorded 4,391 new RSV cases during the week ending December 10, a 63 percent drop from the previous week.
CDC asks people to wear masks during Christmas to stop the spread of FLU and RSV
America’s top health officials are now recommending the use of masks to prevent the spread of RSV and flu this winter, not just Covid.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said during a briefing last week: “We also encourage you to wear a high-quality mask and that you fit well to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses,” when discussing prevention measures for influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
It comes as nearly every US state is recording “very high” levels of flu, as the United States is hit with a lockdown-fuelled resurgence of respiratory viruses this fall. The CDC is reporting 9 million flu infections and 4,500 deaths caused by the virus this flu season, with the worst expected to come in the coming weeks. The typical flu season is from October to May of each year.
Experts have blamed the deadly flu outbreak on lockdowns, mask mandates and social distancing orders during the Covid pandemic, which left the US population at risk.
It is the first week with fewer than 10,000 confirmed cases since the week ending October 15 and the lowest point since late September.
These are preliminary figures. The CDC is likely to increase the number of confirmed RSV cases starting this week in future reports.
The virus does not pose much of a danger to adults, but it can cause serious illness or even death in young children.
Authorities report that around 300 to 500 children will die from the virus each year.
It’s been running low in recent weeks, and officials are beginning to reassure Americans that RSV shouldn’t be as big of a threat anytime soon.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid response coordinator, said during a briefing on Thursday that RSV is “undoubtedly” starting to decline.
His sentiments echo those of Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, who said that RSV was starting to run out during a briefing last week.
However, Covid is starting to rise instead of the two annual viruses. The United States is averaging 64,889 daily infections, an increase of 33 percent over the past two weeks.
While that’s still a number dwarfed by the 160,000 cases averaged around this time last year, officials fear it may indicate the virus is starting to make a resurgence just before the holidays.
The United States also suffers 373 deaths a day from covid, a 50 percent increase in two weeks.
A deadly wave of Strep A has begun in the United States, adding another potential danger to the mix.
The nation has recorded two pediatric deaths in Colorado from the bacterial infection.
Hospitals in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Washington and West Virginia are also reporting abnormally high levels of the disease.
It comes on the heels of an outbreak in the UK that has so far killed 19 children, significantly more than usual for this time of year.
The decline in flu and RSV comes just as some officials are using respiratory illness as a reason to bring back masks.
Last week, health officials from 12 counties in Washington state, including Seattle’s King County, signed a letter urging residents to wear masks indoors.
On Friday of last week, the New York City health department followed suit, issuing a mask advisory in indoor public places, including on the subway and at the gym.
Then, Los Angeles officials also issued an indoor mask advisory over the weekend.
However, none of these are mask mandates, and the 20 million Americans living in affected areas will not be forced to wear a mask indoors.
In Philadelphia, school district officials announced Wednesday that masks will be required in schools from January 3 to January 13, the first ten days after winter break.
The waves of respiratory viruses this fall have been blamed on an “immunity gap” believed to have built up during the pandemic when Covid restrictions excluded seasonal insects.
Experts say these types of mask advisories and other pandemic-related orders likely played a role in this recent spike in viral illness.