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According to data new report from the CDC.
One of the important indicators of the seriousness of the season – the share of outpatient visits with influenza-like illnesses (HIV) increased to 5.8% during the week from November 6 to 12. The last flu season that had this high activity this early was in 2009-10, when the number of visits for flu-like illness reached 7.7% in mid-October, CDC data show. In the same season, attendance levels dropped quickly and returned to normal by early January.
However, as with many other things, the emergence of COVID-19 has brought changes to the way flu activity is measured.
About a year ago, the CDC changed the definition of influenza-like illness to eliminate specific mention of the flu itself, which brought COVID-19 and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) into play, since both patients often have a fever plus a cough or sore throat. All three viruses are monitored by the CDC’s Outpatient Influenza Illness Surveillance Network, which monitors outpatient visits for respiratory illness.
As the CDC tracks flu-like illnesses, research is emerging that shows these viruses don’t interact well together.
Canadian researchers reported in February that the flu virus interferes with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and helps prevent the virus from replicating. The reverse is also true when the coronavirus can interfere with the flu virus, researchers report in a study published in the journal Viruses.
Similarly, there is evidence that rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold, can interfere with the development of the coronavirus.
Some experts believe this means it is unlikely that all three viruses will peak at the same time, overwhelming the health care system.
Despite changes in CDC tracking definitions, activity during the 2021-2022 flu season. was below average: the national flu-like illness rate never reached 5% and fell below the current national baseline (average of the last three non-COVID-19 flu seasons plus 2021-2022 and selected weeks of 2019-20) until the end of January.
It seems that this will not happen in 2022-2023.
“So far this season, there have been at least 4.4 million illnesses, 38,000 hospitalizations, and 2,100 deaths from influenza,” according to the weekly report from the influenza control division, also noting that the rate of hospitalizations “is higher than the rate is observed [at the same point] for each previous season since 2010-2011.”
Among those 2,100 flu-related deaths this season, seven are children. That’s more than occurred in Week 6 of the 2021-22 season, when the first of 44 deaths occurred in just Week 8, and the entire 2020-21 season, when there was only one. In the three previous flu seasons, 199 (2019-20), 144 (2018-19) and 188 (2017-18) children died from the flu. CDC said.