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US sees most flu hospitalizations in a decade

Editor’s Note: See cold and flu activity in your area with the WebMD tracker.

Dec. 12, 2022 — The number of Americans hospitalized with the flu has reached the highest levels the country has seen in at least a decade, the CDC said Friday.

But the number of deaths and outpatient visits for flu or flu-like illnesses fell slightly from the previous week, the CDC said in its weekly FluView report.

There were nearly 26,000 new laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalizations in those 7 days, up more than 31% from the previous week, based on data from 5,000 hospitals in the HHS Protect system, that tracks and shares COVID-19 data.

The cumulative hospitalization rate for the 2022-23 season is 26.0 per 100,000 people, the highest seen at this time of year since 2010-11, the CDC said, based on data from its Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network, which includes hospitals in select counties in 13 states.

At this point in the 2019-20 season, just before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cumulative rate was 3.1 per 100,000 people, according to CDC data.s.

On the positive side, the proportion of outpatient visits for flu-like illness decreased slightly to 7.2%, compared to 7.5% the previous week. But these cases from the CDC’s Outpatient Influenza-Like Illness Surveillance Network are not laboratory confirmed, so the data could include people with influenza, COVID-19 or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

The number of confirmed influenza deaths for the week of November 27 to December 3 also fell slightly from the last full week of November, 246 from 255, but the number of pediatric deaths rose from two to seven, and the total child deaths are already at 21 for 2022-23. That’s compared to 44 that were reported throughout the 2021-22 season, the CDC said.

“So far this season, there have been at least 13 million illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations and 7,300 deaths due to influenza,” the agency estimated.

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