Three major respiratory viruses that have been ravaging the United States for the past few months are finally all trending down at the same time, suggesting that a difficult respiratory virus season is beginning to ease.
According to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of emergency department visits for the three viruses, including the flu, COVID-19, and RSV, has decreased to the lowest level in three months. All age groups can see the decline.
It can be difficult to measure the level of virus transmission; Officials in the health sector concur that the number of COVID-19 cases is vastly undercounted, and the surveillance systems utilized for the flu and RSV provide a substantial but incomplete picture. However, experts claim that keeping track of visits to the emergency room can provide a useful indication of how severe and widespread the respiratory virus season is.
According to Janet Hamilton, executive director of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, when people go to the emergency room, they complain about something. She continued by saying that, a really good measure of the respiratory disease season is being able to look at the proportion of people seeking care at an emergency department for these respiratory illness concerns.
The CDC’s data indicate that emergency department visits for respiratory viruses peaked at 235,000 in the week following Thanksgiving, matching rates from January of last year.
Omicron was almost entirely to blame for the increase in ER visits at the beginning of the year, but the most recent spike was much more diverse. About two-thirds of visits in the week ending December 3 were for the flu, 25% for Covid-19, and 10% for RSV.
Janet Hamilton says that there is a lot of interest in looking at respiratory diseases from a broader perspective, and that the transmission is the same. There are some precautions that are effective against all respiratory illnesses. This could really help people understand that there are steps they can take when respiratory diseases are in high circulation. Right now, COVID-19 accounts for the majority of emergency department visits again, but flu and RSV still account for about a third of visits.
The country’s overall respiratory virus activity continues to decline, according to additional new data from the CDC. In addition to New York City and Washington, DC, only four states had high levels of influenza-like illness. In this category less than a month ago, nearly all states were.