This flu season is wanting actually scary, in a single chart


Flu season is right here — and early crimson flags counsel it’s on monitor to be very, very dangerous. The newest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Flu View report present terribly excessive numbers of optimistic flu exams reported to the company from labs across the US. As of November 5, practically 14,000 optimistic flu exams had been reported, as proven within the orange line on the beneath chart. That’s greater than 12 occasions the quantity reported on the identical time in 2019 (proven within the black line).

This 12 months’s early and meteoric rise in flu transmission is a minimum of considerably associated to the truth that extra persons are being examined for the flu than throughout earlier years. Over the previous 5 weeks, practically twice as many flu exams had been completed at medical labs nationwide as throughout the identical interval final 12 months (about 460,000 versus 254,000). More testing means extra instances will get picked up.

But there are different indicators that these numbers signify actual and really scary traits.

For starters, a a lot larger proportion of flu exams are turning up optimistic than in earlier years: During previous dangerous flu seasons, take a look at positivity has topped out round 3.6 percent, however final week, practically 13 percent of flu exams had been optimistic. When the next proportion of exams are optimistic, which means extra people who find themselves feeling sick even have the flu than in previous years.

Concerning indicators are additionally coming from medical doctors’ workplaces and hospitals. At this time of 12 months, just one to 2 p.c of sufferers in outpatient clinics typically report flu-like sicknesses. But proper now, that quantity is as much as 5 and a half percent, in response to CDC. Not all of these sufferers even have the flu — many may need RSV or different infections — however together with the flu testing numbers, it’s worrisome.

Additionally, greater than five times as many people have been hospitalized for the flu to date this season than on the identical level in any of the final 10 years. And in contrast to RSV, which poses the largest risk to the youngest and oldest, the extreme illness flu causes is extra evenly unfold throughout age teams. About one-third of the individuals who’ve been hospitalized for flu this 12 months had been 65 or older, whereas one other quarter had been ages 18 to 49.

These are particularly worrisome indicators given the well being care workforce pressure we’ve already seen throughout the ongoing RSV surge. And this early begin doesn’t counsel this flu wave will probably be a flash within the pan. The flu is at present worst within the southeastern US, however that may virtually actually change because the air will get colder and the virus migrates northward. Plus, instances haven’t peaked this early since 2009-10’s no good, very bad H1N1 flu pandemic.

The good news: There’s rather a lot you are able to do to guard your self from the flu. This 12 months’s flu vaccine is extensively out there and free with most insurance coverage. And as a result of each of the dominant flu strains currently circulating had been included in this year’s vaccine formulation, there’s hope the shot will assist stop extreme sickness in individuals who get it.

There’s additionally drugs to deal with the flu, so for those who’re sick and at risk for flu complications, search medical care early.

And all that masking, ventilating, and air-filtering we realized to do throughout the pandemic does rather a lot to stop flu transmission (to not point out all the opposite respiratory nasties on the market).

Flu transmission really dropped dramatically throughout the pandemic. In the chart above, have a look at the blue strains, which signify instances reported during the last two years. You can see that there have been only a few optimistic exams in 2020, when mitigation measures — like widespread masking — had been nonetheless in place and most youngsters weren’t at school buildings. Transmission picked up in 2021, however was on monitor with prior seasons — and was in all probability curbed starting late within the 12 months because of elevated masking and social distancing in response to the omicron surge of Covid-19.

This 12 months’s begin to the flu season is horrifying. But we will nonetheless take steps to flatten this curve.


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