It promises to be a severe flu season this winter, as illustrated by a rising number of cases in Washington, D.C., among numerous other places nationwide. Photo by Mic445/Flickr
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- It promises to be a severe flu season this winter, as illustrated by a rising number of cases in Washington among other places nationwide. The nation's capital had 702 reported cases at last count, up from 500 cases a week earlier, health officials said.
That compares with 12 positive flu cases at the same point -- the end of November -- a year ago in the District of Columbia.
For the entire 2022-23 flu season to date, 2,091 positive flu cases have been reported, the D.C. Health Department said.
"Seasonal influenza activity is high and continues to increase across the country," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday in its latest weekly influenza surveillance report.
Most U.S. jurisdictions were reporting "very high" flu activity, CDC said.
CDC estimated that, as of late November, there had been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from flu across the country.
That included two influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported through a week ago, for a total of 14 pediatric flu deaths so far this season.
And CDC said the cumulative hospitalization rate in its tracking system is higher than the rate observed in "Week 47" in late November during every previous flu season since 2010-2011.
CDC said the number of flu hospital admissions reported in the system during the week ended Nov. 26 almost doubled compared to the previous week.
Nationwide, 7.5% of outpatient visits for respiratory illness, as reported through a federal health tracking system, were for symptoms that included fever plus a cough or sore throat, also referred to as "influenza-like illness," as of Nov. 26. This's well above the national baseline of 2.5%.
In Washington, D.C., 15% of reported patient visits for respiratory illnesses were for influenza-like illness at latest count. That compares with 5% at the same time a year ago.
But some local public health officials are more worried about other respiratory illnesses -- at least for now -- amid the triple threat of influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV.
"RSV cases have caused the most strain to our health care system this respiratory disease season, so far," Dr. Michael Kilkenny, the physician director of the Cabell-Huntington, W.Va. Health Department, told UPI in an email Monday.
Kilkenny said local cases of RSV and influenza increased in October into November, according to the health department's latest available data through Nov. 30.
"Influenza began to decline late in November along with declining COVID cases," Kilkenny said, then "COVID cases increased last week to medium after dropping to low for one week just before Thanksgiving."
According to Kilkenny, improved data sharing among local public health and health care systems in the local health agency's jurisdiction is the direct result of "partnership strengthening" during the COVID pandemic.
"That local data, when analyzed in comparison with state and national data, allows our community to more effectively address its immediate needs regarding seasonal respiratory illness outbreaks," he said.
Nationwide, positive flu tests reported to CDC by clinical laboratories continue to rise, the agency said in its latest report. Of 130,584 specimens tested, 32,733, or 25.1%, tested positive for influenza. Virtually all tested positive for the flu's 'A' strain.
Of influenza A viruses detected and subtyped this season, 79% have been influenza A(H3N2) and 21% have been influenza A(H1N1), CDC said.
Yet, "all viruses collected and evaluated this season have been susceptible to influenza antivirals," CDC said.