AP

‘Viral jambalaya’: Early flu adding to woes for US hospitals

Nov 17, 2022, 10:26 PM | Updated: Nov 18, 2022, 12:45 pm

FILE - A patient is given a flu vaccine at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Heal...

FILE - A patient is given a flu vaccine at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans' Community Resource Center where they were offering members and the public free flu and COVID-19 vaccines Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Lynwood, Calif. As Americans head into the late 2022 holiday season, a rapidly intensifying flu season is straining hospitals already overburdened with patients sick from other respiratory infections. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

As Americans head into the holiday season, a rapidly intensifying flu season is straining hospitals already overburdened with patients sick from other respiratory infections.

More than half the states have high or very high levels of flu, unusually high for this early in the season, the government reported Friday. Those 27 states are mostly in the South and Southwest but include a growing number in the Northeast, Midwest and West.

This is happening when children’s hospitals already are dealing with a surge of illnesses from RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of coldlike symptoms that can be serious for infants and the elderly. And COVID-19 is still contributing to more than 3,000 hospital admissions each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Atlanta, Dr. Mark Griffiths describes the mix as a “viral jambalaya.” He said the children’s hospitals in his area have at least 30% more patients than usual for this time of year, with many patients forced to wait in emergency rooms for beds to open up.

“I tell parents that COVID was the ultimate bully. It bullied every other virus for two years,” said Griffiths, ER medical director of a Children’s Health Care of Atlanta downtown hospital.

With COVID-19 rates going down, “they’re coming back full force,” he said

The winter flu season usually doesn’t get going until December or January. Hospitalization rates from flu haven’t been this high this early since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, CDC officials say. The highest rates are among those 65 and older and children under 5, the agency said.

“It’s so important for people at higher risk to get vaccinated,” the CDC’s Lynnette Brammer said in a statement Friday.

But flu vaccinations are down from other years, particularly among adults, possibly because the past two seasons have been mild. Flu shots are recommended for nearly all Americans who are at least 6 months old or older.

Adults can get RSV too and that infection can be especially dangerous for older adults who are frail or have chronic illnesses, doctors say. There is not yet a vaccine against RSV although some are in development.

One infectious disease specialist urged Americans to take precautions before gathering for Thanksgiving, including avoiding public crowds, getting COVID-19 tests before they meet, and wearing masks indoors — particularly if you are old or frail, or will be around someone who is.

“Nobody wants to bring a virus to the table,” said Dr. William Schaffner, of Vanderbilt University.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association this week urged the Biden administration to declare an emergency and mount a national response to “the alarming surge of pediatric respiratory illnesses.” An emergency declaration would allow waivers of Medicaid, Medicare or Children’s Health Insurance Program requirements so that doctors and hospitals could share resources and access emergency funding, the groups said in a letter.

___

AP reporter Heather Hollingsworth contributed to this report.

___

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

17 hours ago

Image: Members of the Makah Indian tribe paddle away from the rising sun as they head from Neah Bay...

Associated Press

Washington’s Makah Tribe clears major hurdle toward resuming traditional whale hunts

The U.S. granted the Makah Indian Tribe a long-sought waiver that helps clear the way for its first sanctioned whale hunts since 1999.

2 days ago

jerry west...

Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press

Jerry West, a 3-time Hall of Fame selection and the NBA logo, dies at 86

Jerry West, a three-time Basketball Hall of Fame inductee whose silhouette is considered to be the basis of the NBA logo, died Wednesday morning.

3 days ago

Photo: Construction vehicles are parked outside of the Station U & O building on Tuesday, June 11, ...

Haleluya Hadero, The Associated Press

Amazon adds $1.4B to affordable housing fund for regions where it has corporate offices

Amazon is adding $1.4B to a fund for building more affordable housing in regions where the company has major corporate offices.

4 days ago

hunter biden...

Randall Chase and the Associated Press

Hunter Biden convicted of all 3 felony charges in federal gun trial

Hunter Biden has been convicted of all three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018, but no sentencing date was set.

4 days ago

Photo: A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real e...

Associated Press

Bremerton man sentenced for 20 ‘swatting’ calls of false threats in US, Canada

A Bremerton man who made 20 "swatting" calls around the U.S. and in Canada, prompting real emergency responses, has been sentenced.

5 days ago

‘Viral jambalaya’: Early flu adding to woes for US hospitals