Flu cases have dropped by more than two-thirds in a fortnight and RSV continues to fall – but Covid deaths are starting to rise.
Today’s report showed that 8,200 flu cases were detected in the first week of the new year, compared to 28,000 recorded two weeks ago. Flu-like illness hospitalizations also fell below levels recorded at this time last year.
RSV followed its downward trend for the eighth straight week, falling to 2,100 recorded cases in the same week – the lowest number since early September.
But Covid deaths rose 44% in a week, with 3,900 recorded in the week to January 11. However, that was just a third of the 13,000 recorded for the same week last year and experts said the rise could be an “artefact” of the holiday season which likely delayed the reporting of many deaths.
The graph above shows flu cases reported by US clinical laboratories in the week leading up to January 7, the first of the year. It showed that the flu continued to decline across the country
The maps above show flu levels in each state in the week to December 31 (left) and the week to January 7 (right)
In its weekly update, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, “Seasonal influenza activity continues but is decreasing in most areas.
‘The percentage of patient visits [to hospitals] for respiratory diseases decreased for all regions during [the first week of the year].’
They added, “The CDC continues to recommend that everyone six months of age and older receive an annual influenza vaccine as long as influenza activity continues.”
Fears of a so-called ‘triple epidemic’ first emerged over the summer when Australia and New Zealand – whose winters fall within the US summer – suffered seasons devastating flu.
Experts have pointed to lockdowns, mask mandates and other pandemic orders over the past two years as the likely reason why this year’s flu season has been more brutal than previous ones.
This is the worst flu season America has seen since the 2009 swine flu pandemic – and experts have been warning for months that it will be a long, harsh winter.
The graph above shows influenza-like illness hospitalizations in the United States. Four percent were reported last week, down from 5.4% the previous week. It was below the level at this time of year for last year’s flu season
This chart shows weekly confirmed flu hospitalizations in the US, which are also down
Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that the Omicron XBB.1.5 subvariant is now the most common variant in the United States.
It is dominant in the northeastern states and growing rapidly in other areas
At one point earlier in December, hospitals in some areas were fuller than they had ever been during the pandemic.
But the CDC’s latest update shows cases declining and continuing as the flu and RSV wear off.
The 10,000 flu cases detected in the week to January 7 is the lowest figure since late October.
It is also about a fifth of the roughly 47,000 confirmed infections in a week at the end of November, at the height of the current wave.
As for the hospitals, about four percent of patients visiting the units suffered from respiratory illnesses, including fever, cough and sore throat. This is down a quarter from the previous week’s 5.4% and about half of the 7.5% peak at the end of November.
Regionally, only one state – New Mexico – and New York City had very high influenza activity during the week leading up to January 7.
For comparison, the previous week, 11 states and New York – California, New Mexico, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York. South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Nebraska – had very high levels.
The CDC has estimated that so far this year there have been 24 million cases of the flu, 260,000 hospitalizations and 16,000 deaths from the virus.
RSV infections also trended downward for the eighth consecutive week, with 2,100 confirmed cases last week compared to 4,800 the previous week.
Covid infections are also down with 414,721 cases recorded in the week to January 11, the latest available. That was down from 477,230 the previous week.
But today the CDC said the most infectious variant of Covid XBB.1.5 is now the most common strain in the US, behind two in five infections.
It’s the dominant strain in northeastern states — such as New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey — and it grows across the country.
The above shows RSV detections in the United States. Cases have declined for the eighth consecutive week
This chart shows US Covid deaths by week, which have been increasing. Experts say it could be down to the flagging, however
The graph above shows Covid cases in the United States, as reported by the CDC
Covid cases have fallen over the past week, but this may be due to a lack of testing, with the week to January 4 seeing the lowest number of tests carried out nationwide – 1.9 million – since the early days of the pandemic.
Covid deaths have increased over the past week, with 3,900 recorded in the week to January 11 compared to 2,700 in the previous seven-day period.
The number of recorded Covid deaths is the highest since August, but remains streets short of the 17,300 recorded in February during the latest wave of Covid.
Experts say, however, that as reported by date, the rise may be due to a delay in reporting deaths over the holiday period – when fewer people were available to process the data.
Dr Paul Hunter, a virus expert at the University of East Anglia in the UK, told DailyMail.com: ‘This may be due to a backlog of late reported deaths over the holiday period finally reported .”
“Whenever I see a sudden and unexpected change in monitoring data, my first question is always, could it be an artifact?
“You’d be surprised how often such things are artifacts, and these are more common during holiday periods.”
Harvard epidemiologist Dr William Hanage added: “You can get effects from delayed reports and holidays.
“There’s a lot of interest in XBB.1.5 right now, but all we can say conclusively at this time is that it’s not much different.
“But that could change as the data comes in and the infections it caused start to resolve in one way or another.”
There is no evidence at this time that XBB.1.5 is more likely to cause serious illness or death than other variants currently in circulation.