"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Signs point to a post-holiday surge in respiratory viruses

January 2, 2024 – The three major respiratory diseases, influenza, COVID-19 and RSV, are occurring in large numbers across the country and are expected to proceed to rise as a result of holiday gatherings.

The rate of positive tests for any of the viruses that cause these three major respiratory illnesses is now well over 10% nationwide, with the flu being the more than likely cause. New national data shows that 16% of flu tests are actually positive and nearly 13% of COVID and RSV tests are positive.

The CDC notes that a few of these numbers, including cases diagnosed through December 23, could also be underestimates as a result of possible delays in data reporting.

“Remember, all of these numbers are before people started gathering for the holidays,” said Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine CNN. “So don’t be disappointed or surprised that we [may] I actually see a bigger increase as we go into January.”

Six states are currently recording respiratory illnesses at the best levels of the CDC's 13-tier severity reporting system: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Nationwide, 8 out of 100 emergency room visits within the week ending Dec. 23 were for respiratory illnesses, the CDC reported.

Public health officials typically monitor what number of individuals are hospitalized as a result of an illness to find out how severe circulating strains are and likewise to observe the strain on health systems. In the week ending December 23, greater than 14,700 people were hospitalized with the disease flu Across the country, 29,059 people were hospitalized COVID. But hospital occupancy rates for every health condition remain relatively stable, hovering around 76% of occupied beds nationwide, CDC data shows.

Wastewater monitoring for COVID in addition to flu and RSV by the private company Biobot showed more evidence of each COVID and flu in recent weeks, with RSV potentially falling within the week ending December twenty third. CDC data for RSV case counts also showed a big week-on-week decline during this era.

Vaccinations can be found to guard against severe cases of flu, COVID and RSV. Antiviral treatments are also available for individuals with the diagnosis, including Tamiflu to treat the flu and Paxlovid to treat COVID.