US flu season off to a fast start as other viruses spread

Nov 4, 2022, 1:46 PM | Updated: 2:03 pm
FILE - A flu vaccine is readied at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans...

FILE - A flu vaccine is readied at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans' Community Resource Center where they were offering members and the public free flu and COVID-19 vaccines Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Lynwood, Calif. The U.S. flu season is off to an unusually fast start, adding to a 2022 autumn mix of viruses that have been filling hospitals and doctor waiting rooms. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. flu season is off to an unusually fast start, adding to an autumn mix of viruses that have been filling hospitals and doctor waiting rooms.

Reports of flu are already high in 17 states, and the hospitalization rate hasn’t been this high this early since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, there have been an estimated 730 flu deaths, including at least two children.

The winter flu season usually flu ramps up in December or January.

“We are seeing more cases than we would expect at this time,” the CDC’s Dr. José Romero said Friday.

A busy flu season is not unexpected. The nation saw two mild seasons during the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts have worried that flu might come back strong as a COVID-weary public has moved away from masks and other measures that tamp the spread of respiratory viruses.

Community Montessori school in New Albany, Indiana, switched to virtual teaching at the end of the week because so many students were out sick with the flu. Beginning Monday, the school’s 500 students will go back to wearing masks.

“Everybody just wants kids on campus, that is for sure,” said the school’s director, Burke Fondren. “We will do what we need to do.”

There may be some good news: COVID-19 cases have been trending downwards and leveled off in the last three weeks, Romero said.

And in a few parts of the country, health officials think they may be seeing early signs that a wave of another respiratory virus may be starting to wane. RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common cause in kids of coldlike symptoms such as runny nose, cough and fever. While RSV continues to rise nationally, preliminary data suggest a decline in the Southeast, Southwest, and in an area that includes Rocky Mountain states and the Dakotas, CDC officials said.

Experts think infections from RSV increased recently because children are more vulnerable now, no longer sheltered from common bugs as they were during pandemic lockdowns. Also, the virus, which usually affects children at ages 1 and 2, is now sickening more kids up to age 5.

At the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, beds have been full for 54 days straight.

“The curves are all going up for RSV and influenza,” said Dr. John Cunningham, Comer’s physician-in-chief.

RSV illnesses seem to be unusually severe, he added.

Comer has had to turn down transfer requests from other hospitals because there was no room. Chicago-area hospitals had been able to transfer kids to Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin, but that’s stopped. “They have no more beds, either,” Cunningham said.

There’s not yet a vaccine against RSV, but there are shots for flu and COVID-19. Health officials say flu vaccinations are down in both kids and adults compared to before the pandemic, although up in children from last year.

So far this season, there have been an estimated 1.6 million flu illnesses and 13,000 hospitalizations. Flu activity is most intense in some of the areas where RSV is fading, including the Southeast, according to CDC data.

___

Babwin reported from Chicago. Tom Davies in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

___

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Small plane caught in power lines after crash, passengers OK

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (AP) — A small plane crashed into and got stuck in live power lines Sunday evening in Maryland, causing widespread power outages in the surrounding county as officials tried to extricate the plane. It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were aboard. Pete Piringer, chief spokesperson for the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue […]
18 hours ago
This combination of photos provided by the Chesapeake, Va., Police Department shows top row from le...
Associated Press

Walmart shooting claims teen, young woman, father, mother

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — A 16-year-old helping his family. A custodian and father of two. A mother with wedding plans. A happy-go-lucky guy. A longtime employee. That’s how friends and family described some of the six people killed at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, when a manager opened fire with a handgun before an employee […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. walks on the sideline during a NFL division...
Associated Press

NFL free agent Odell Beckham Jr. taken off plane in Miami

MIAMI (AP) — NFL free agent Odell Beckham Jr. was removed by police from an aircraft before takeoff at Miami International Airport after officials said he failed to respond to requests to buckle his seatbelt and appeared to be unconscious, police and airline officials said Sunday. “Fearing that Mr. Beckham was seriously ill, and that […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Chickens walk in a fenced pasture at an organic farm in Iowa on Oct. 21, 2015. Nebraska agri...
Associated Press

Bird flu prompts slaughter of 1.8M chickens in Nebraska

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska agriculture officials say another 1.8 million chickens must be killed after bird flu was found on a farm in the latest sign that the outbreak that has already prompted the slaughter of more than 50 million birds nationwide continues to spread. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture said Saturday that the […]
18 hours ago
This photo provided by the U.S. Navy shows U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James in Centur...
Associated Press

Colorado shooting victim ‘wanted to save the family I found’

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A member of the U.S. Navy who was injured while helping prevent further harm during a shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado last weekend said Sunday that he “simply wanted to save the family that I found.” Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas James made his first public comments on […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Director Quentin Tarantino, left, poses with Friars Club Dean Freddie Roman at the Quentin T...
Associated Press

Borscht Belt comedian Freddie Roman dies at age 85

Comedian Freddie Roman, the former dean of The Friars Club and a staple of the Catskills comedy scene, has died. He was 85. Roman died Saturday afternoon at Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach, Florida, his booking agent and friend Alison Chaplin said Sunday. His daughter told the entertainment trade Deadline that he suffered a heart […]
18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
US flu season off to a fast start as other viruses spread