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CDC: Respiratory diseases stretching hospitals thin

7 Dec 2022 10:34 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

The leader of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that flu hospitalizations remain the highest they’ve been at this time of year in a decade, as the nation continues to grapple with a spike in respiratory illnesses. [Health News Illinois]

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky also said there was an "unfortunate and expected” uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations last week, following Thanksgiving. 

She told reporters Monday that the rise is “especially worrisome as we move into the winter months when more people are assembling indoors with less ventilation and as we approach the holiday season where many are gathering with loved ones across multiple generations.” 

Meanwhile, activity for respiratory syncytial virus remains high nationally, with some signs that it may be leveling off in areas like the Midwest. Hospital systems are “stretched” with high numbers of patients with respiratory illnesses, Walensky said. 

Influenza cases continue to rise in Chicago, but RSV cases decreased in the past week, according to Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health. She said she was surprised by the early start to flu season this year during a Facebook Live event Tuesday. 

There were 28 influenza-associated intensive care unit hospitalizations in Chicago during Nov. 20 and Nov. 26, the most recent surveillance week, according to a report released last Friday. Sixty influenza-associated ICU hospitalizations have been reported since Oct. 2. Chicago's flu positivity rate was 28.5 percent.

The positivity rate for RSV decreased from 9.1 percent to 5.8 percent in Chicago. The percent of emergency department visits for children under 5 also decreased from 5.9 percent to 4.7 percent. 

Illinois is at a very high level of flu activity, according to the CDC. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in Illinois, which has a dozen counties at the level where the CDC recommends public indoor masking.

Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, board chair of the American Medical Association and a professor at Emory University School of Medicine, encouraged people to get vaccinated and stay home when sick. 

"Flu is here — it started early," she said. "And with COVID and RSV also circulating, it's a perfect storm for a terrible holiday season."


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