Monday, January 17, 2022

Rising flu cases threaten hospital capacity as Covid holidays surge

Emergency room nurses and EMTs care for patients in the hallway at Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital on August 18, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Flu cases are on the rise in the United States. This could put pressure on hospitals already battling the Covid surge.

The so-called “twindemic” – which public health experts have dubbed the combination of influenza and COVID – could accelerate during holiday celebrations this week.

“The most important problem we are facing is the full load of our health care capacity,” said Shira Shafir, an epidemiology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Shafir said, “When we have COVID transmission, plus flu, plus everything else that might require someone to go to the hospital…

Hospital admissions for the flu have risen nearly 34% over the past week, reaching a seven-day average of about 250 per day as of Thursday, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. Average daily admissions have never topped 125 last flu season.

About 8,400 patients have been admitted to US hospitals with Covid every day on average over the past week, data shows, up 5% from a week ago, but below the peak level of the summer delta wave of more than 12,000 daily admissions Is.

Last year, there was virtually no flu season in the US because public health protocols to slow transmission of the coronavirus also prevented the spread of influenza, Shafir said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu cases fell to their lowest level in the last season.

Flu season is back as US officials ease restrictions such as wearing masks and limited gatherings with the available COVID vaccines this year.

That means Americans have reduced immunity against influenza, the CDC said earlier this fall.

Scientists design flu vaccines each year to match what they predict will be most common. Less data from last year means this year’s shot is a poor match, scientists have said.

“We expect people to have less protection against the flu than in normal flu conditions because we didn’t have a flu season last year,” Shafir said. “That makes people particularly vulnerable to influenza this year.”

According to a CDC survey conducted between December 2 and December 13, about 48% of American adults have received the flu vaccine. Another 9.5% said they plan to get it.

The estimated total vaccine coverage for the 2021-22 flu season is 57.2%, which is 3.4 percent higher than the previous season’s vaccination rate, the agency said.

Dr. Jim Conway, medical director of the immunization program, said, “The concerning part is that vaccination rates against the flu for this time of year are much lower than they usually are at this time of year, because we’re going through this holiday. go to the meeting period.” at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

holiday gathering

According to Shafir, holidays can increase the spread of influenza as individuals experiencing symptoms who test negative for COVID can go ahead with gatherings and transmit the flu.

“Even if someone has a negative Covid test, they may still have something else they can pass on to the people in their life,” Shafir said.

The epidemiologist advised individuals experiencing symptoms such as cough, sore throat or runny nose to stay at home. Wearing masks, ventilation and, if possible, gathering outside are strategies that can help slow the spread, she said.

Health officials also recommend the flu shot, along with the COVID vaccine and booster doses, to help protect individuals. The fast-spreading omicron variant of COVID has prompted a surge in cases, but research has shown that it is not as severe as other types. Studies have shown that vaccines and boosters provide high protection.

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