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Increase in Flu and COVID-19 Cases as New Variant of Coronavirus Arises

Anticipated Increase in Flu and COVID-19 Cases as New Variant of Coronavirus Arises

Anticipated Increase in Flu and COVID-19 Cases as New Variant of Coronavirus Arises

·         The Associated Press:

U.S. health officials anticipate a rise in flu and COVID-19 cases in the upcoming weeks, driven by holiday gatherings, a significant number of unvaccinated individuals, and a potentially more transmissible variant of the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a surge in flu-like illnesses last week in 17 states, an increase from 14 states the previous week, as per a statement on Friday.

“People are traveling more this season to visit their families,” said Dr. Manisha Patel of the CDC. “All of this contributes to the spread of viruses.”

Health officials are closely monitoring a new version of the continuously adapting coronavirus, identified as JN.1. Initially identified in the U.S. in September, the omicron variant presently represents an estimated 20% of cases. It was recognized in Oregon in mid-November, and the CDC anticipates it to surge to 50% within the next two weeks, according to Patel.

Health officials say there is no evidence that the strain causes more severe disease than other recent variants, although it may spread easier or be better at evading our immune systems. Current evidence also indicates that vaccines and antiviral medications are effective against it.

Regarding the flu, early indications show that current vaccines are well-matched to the strain causing the most illnesses. Typically, this strain does not lead to as many deaths and hospitalizations as some other versions. However, officials report that vaccinations are down this year. By the first week of December, about 42% of U.S. adults had received flu shots, a decrease from approximately 45% at the same time last year, according to the CDC.

Americans have been slow in obtaining other vaccinations, with only about 18% receiving the updated COVID-19 shot that was made available in September. Approximately one-third of nursing home residents are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.

Moreover, just 17% of adults aged 60 and older have received new shots against another respiratory virus, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), which is a common cause of mild cold-like symptoms but can pose a danger to infants and older individuals.

The CDC recently sent a health alert to U.S. doctors, urging them to immunize their patients against the trio of viruses. Additionally, recent CDC data shows that the Carolinas are experiencing the highest volume of respiratory infections in their emergency rooms.

Dr. Scott Curry, an infectious diseases specialist at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, observed that while the current winter season is not as severe as some in the past, there are still patients experiencing multi-day waits for hospital beds. He expressed concern about the potential for the situation to worsen over the next four to eight weeks, emphasizing that South Carolina has yet to experience significant cold weather, which typically coincides with a surge in flu cases.



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