Title: Increased Flu and Covid Rates Expected as Winter Approaches in the US
Winter officially begins on Thursday, and along with it comes the anticipated rise in rates of flu and Covid. Dr. Mandy Cohen, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has confirmed that the US is witnessing a sharp increase in flu levels, particularly in the southern region.
In addition to the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases have also reached their highest point this season, although they appear to have peaked earlier than usual. Although the weekly number of positive RSV tests in the US has fallen by approximately 16% compared to the previous week, health officials are urging caution.
Last year, there was a simultaneous peak in flu, RSV, and Covid cases, but this year the pattern seems to be different. The spike in severe RSV illnesses observed last year was likely due to babies born during the pandemic not being exposed to RSV in their first years of life due to masking and social distancing measures. However, this year’s situation appears to be more typical.
While Covid infections this season resemble those seen last year, there is a concern about the JN.1 variant, accounting for around 21% of cases nationwide, and its potential to accelerate the spread of the virus.
The CDC has issued an alert regarding low vaccination rates for Covid, flu, and RSV. Currently, only about 18% of adults and 8% of children have received updated Covid shots, which are believed to offer good protection against the JN.1 variant.
Fortunately, this year’s flu shot seems to be a good match for circulating strains, reducing the risk of flu hospitalizations by 52% in the Southern Hemisphere. However, RSV vaccines are still relatively new, and currently only available to pregnant individuals and adults aged 60 and above. Unfortunately, data regarding RSV vaccine uptake in pregnant individuals is not yet available, while only 17% of older adults have received RSV shots.
In October, the FDA approved an injectable RSV drug for infants called nirsevimab, but there was a supply shortage. However, more doses are set to become available in January.
Dr. Cohen advises people to consider not only their own infection risks but also the risks to those with whom they will be celebrating with during holiday travel and gatherings.
It is crucial for individuals to properly protect themselves and others by adhering to health guidelines, getting vaccinated, and taking necessary precautions to prevent the spread of flu and Covid as winter progresses.
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