Flu, COVID-19 and RSV Lead an Onslaught of Respiratory Viruses, Straining Hospitals Across the US
The surge of respiratory viruses that first hit the a few weeks ago continues to intensify. For two consecutive weeks, hospitalizations and deaths from influenza (flu) have increased by nearly 100%. The 6,465 flu hospitalizations last week was the most in more than decade for this time of year. The flurry of multiple viruses are overwhelming emergency rooms, prompting some hospitals to set up treatment tents outside the hospital. In California for example, Jacobs Medical Center, Memorial Hospital Encinitas, and La Jolla and Sharp Grossmont Hospital established overflow tents in parking lots to accommodate the overflow of patients. Epidemiologists do not know for certain when cases of influenza will level off. Peak flu season typically occurs from December-February. If flu cases follow the more common pattern, higher numbers earlier in the season could mean cases peak earlier than usual. However, lagging vaccination rates, combined with a rebound from relaxed safety precautions, may fuel worsening outbreaks over the next few months. Fortunately, they are well matched with what’s in the current vaccines. One of the best ways to protect yourself against the flu is to get vaccinated. The exact level of protection varies from year to year based on how well the vaccines matches the season’s dominant strains. This year’s vaccines match the flu strains currently in circulation, which suggests the vaccine will more effective at preventing severe illness.