US flu levels stubbornly high as COVID declines further

sick older man

Jelena Stanojkovic/iStock

Flu levels remain elevated, with increases in half of US regions, as COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) levels stayed on downward trends, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in its latest weekly updates.

Flu upticks in multiple regions

Though the national test positivity declined a bit, to 14.8% of respiratory virus samples, the percentage of outpatient visits for flulike illness held steady at 4.5%, the CDC said in its weekly FluView update.

Regional patterns, though, show a mixed picture, with five regions—the Northeast, New England, the Middle Atlantic, the Midwest, and the Central states—experiencing increased activity last week. Test positivity also varied by region, with higher levels in the Northeast, Middle Atlantic, and Central regions.

Influenza B activity, which often rises in the later flu season months, stayed level last week. Of respiratory samples that tested positive for flu at public health labs last week, 71.7% were influenza A and 28.3% were influenza B. Of subtyped flu A samples, 51.3% were the 2009 H1N1 strain and 48.7% were H3N2.

Hospitalization indicators remained stable and have been decreasing since the first of the year, the CDC said.

Overall deaths from flu rose last week, and the CDC received reports of 9 more pediatric flu deaths, raising the season's total to 91. The deaths occurred between November and the first weeks of February. Five were linked to the H1N1 virus, and four were related to influenza B.

COVID markers continue to fall

In its latest data updates today, the CDC said both severity markers for COVID—hospitalizations and deaths—declined last week. Hospitalizations remain elevated in seniors and infants ages 12 months and younger.

Early indicators also show downward trends, with the nation's test positivity rate at 8.1%. The rate is a bit higher in the southeast than in other parts of the country. Also, emergency department visits declined 12.4% from the previous week.

Wastewater SARS-CoV-2 detections, another early signal, remained high. For the week ending February 17, detections are much higher in the southern region than in the rest of the country.

RSV situation continues to improve

Meanwhile, RSV levels continue to decline in many areas, and hospitalizations levels are dropping for both infants and seniors, the CDC said in its weekly respiratory virus snapshot.

Deaths from RSV remained stable.

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