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Flu hospitalization rate nearly doubled over Thanksgiving week, CDC reports

The nation is in the midst of one of the earliest and most virulent flu seasons on record, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of people hospitalized with the flu nearly doubled during Thanksgiving week – 19,593 compared to 11,378 people admitted to hospital the previous week. Of those hospitalized with the flu, most were aged 65 or older.

On Friday, the CDC reported that the flu is spreading at high levels in 45 states, even in southern states and others where the virus has been spreading since October. The CDC also warned that flu vaccination rates among pregnant women, who are at particularly high risk of serious complications from the virus, are down 12% so far this season, compared to last year. .

“We’re seeing high activity levels pretty much everywhere,” said Alicia Budd, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of influenza. “It’s probably in your neighborhood.”

As of Nov. 26, only Alaska, Michigan, and Vermont have reported low flu transmission.

Experts fear infections will spike nationwide after Thanksgiving gatherings.

“We’re not at the top yet,” Budd said. “We’re going to see high activity for several more weeks, at least.”

So far this season, nearly 9 million Americans have fallen ill with the flu. About 4,500 have died, according to CDC estimates. The elderly are most at risk, but the flu has killed 14 children since October.

A woman walks past signs advertising free flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines outside a CVS pharmacy in Altamonte Springs, Florida on October 16.Phelan M. Ebenhack via AP File

The influx of severe influenzas converged with other circulating respiratory viruses, particularly Covid and RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus.

RSV has been particularly hard on children in recent months. As of Dec. 2, 77% of pediatric hospital beds nationwide were full, according to health and human services data.

There is no data yet to show how protective this year’s flu vaccine is against current strains. Anecdotally, the shots seem to work.

Dr. Kavita Patel said “almost everyone” she saw tested positive for the flu at Mary’s Center, a community health center in Maryland, is unvaccinated.

Most, she says, report chills, fever, sore throat and cough.

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