Tracking hospitalizations for influenza, Covid-19 and RSV in the US

Tracking hospitalizations for influenza, Covid-19 and RSV in the US


In the United States, a difficult season of respiratory viruses is underway, such as flu and respiratory syncytial virus came early and hit hard this year, straining the nation’s health care system and driving hospitalizations to rates not seen in years — even as Covid-19 continues spreading across the country.

As this historic season progresses, CNN will monitor the impact as disease updates are released.

The number of flu-related hospitalizations has risen this fall: The cumulative rate of hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, compiled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has eclipsed at least five of the past 12 seasons.

While the seven-day running average of hospitalization cases is derived from US Health and Human Services data has fallen in recent weeks, experts to warn resurgence is possible as people travel and gather for the holidays.

While Covid levels remain well below previous spikes, trends are definitely on the rise across the US, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. After a relatively calm summer, the number of hospitalizations has been increasing again since the beginning of November.

More than 100 million cases have been reported in the United States since the pandemic began. However, the actual number of cases is likely to be much higher, as many people who are infected are not tested or do not report the results of tests taken at home. As cases are undercounted, hospitalization has become a better indicator of disease trends.

RSV hit particularly hard early this season, with hospitalization rates higher than the previous four seasons.

Young children are particularly susceptible to RSV, and the virus affects children particularly strongly this season. Hospitalization rates for those younger than 5 are more than double what they were in any season from 2018 to 2019 — when the CDC began tracking child-specific data.

Flu and other respiratory illnesses often have overlapping symptoms, such as congestion and cough. But some are unique. RSV, for example, can cause wheezing or decreased appetite, while Covid can cause shortness of breath. Testing can help determine which disease it is, which health experts say is useful to ensure that individuals receive appropriate treatment in a timely manner. For example, the antiviral Tamiflu can help treat the flu, while Paxlovid is available for Covid patients.

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