The 2022-2023 flu season is going to be very, very bad

Flu season is right here — and early purple flags point out it is on a very, very bad observe. The newest knowledge from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Flu View report exhibits an amazing variety of optimistic flu checks reported to the company from laboratories across the US. As of November 5, practically 14,000 optimistic flu checks have been reported, as proven by the orange line within the chart beneath. This is 12 occasions greater than the quantity reported on the identical time in 2019 (proven in black line).

This yr’s early and meteoric rise in flu instances is due no less than partially to extra folks getting examined for the flu than in earlier years. Over the previous 5 weeks, greater than twice as many flu checks have been carried out at scientific laboratories nationwide (about 460,000 versus 254,000) in contrast to the identical interval final yr. More testing means extra instances.

But these numbers are actual and there are different indicators that mirror very alarming tendencies.

For starters, a a lot increased proportion of flu checks are optimistic than in earlier years: In previous bad flu seasons, the optimistic check charge was round 3.6 %, however final week, practically 13 % of flu checks have been optimistic. A better proportion of checks are optimistic, which implies that extra folks getting sick have had the flu than in earlier years.

Signals are additionally coming from medical doctors and hospitals. At this time of yr, solely 1-2 % of sufferers in outpatient clinics report flu-like diseases. But now, in accordance to the CDC, that quantity is up to 5 and a half %. Not all of those sufferers had the flu — almost certainly had RSV or different infections — however mixed with flu testing numbers, it is worrisome.

In addition, 5 occasions extra folks have been hospitalized with the flu to date this season than on the identical time within the final 10 years. And not like RSV, which poses the best threat to the youngest and oldest, extreme influenza causes are extra evenly distributed throughout age teams. One-third of individuals hospitalized with the flu this yr are 65 or older, and one other quarter are between 18 and 49.

These are notably alarming indicators due to the strains within the well being care workforce that we now have seen throughout the ongoing RSV outbreak. And that early begin doesn’t suggest this flu wave will be a flash within the pan. The flu is at present worst within the southeastern United States, however that may change because the air cools and the virus strikes north. In addition, not for the reason that 2009-10 H1N1 flu pandemic has it peaked so early.

The excellent news: There’s loads you are able to do to shield your self from the flu. This yr’s flu vaccine is extensively out there and free with most insurance coverage. And as a result of this yr’s vaccine consists of each of the 2 dominant flu strains at present circulating, the hope is that the shot will assist stop extreme sickness in individuals who contract it.

There is additionally medication to deal with the flu, so in the event you really feel sick and are liable to problems from the flu, search medical consideration as quickly as doable.

Masks, air flow, and air filtration, which we realized throughout a pandemic, do loads to stop the flu (not to point out different respiratory diseases on the market).

The flu is actual dropped sharply throughout the pandemic. In the chart above, see the blue traces representing the variety of instances reported over the previous two years. You can see that in 2020 there have been very few optimistic checks, and mitigation measures – resembling widespread masking – are nonetheless in place and most kids aren’t at school buildings. The run started in 2021 however has been held in earlier seasons – and was suspended on the finish of the yr due to elevated mask-wearing and social distancing in response to the micro wave of Covid-19.

This yr’s flu season is off to a scary begin. But we will nonetheless take steps to flatten that curve.

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