Top US health officials have finally acknowledged that the pandemic restrictions they support may have fueled a boom in respiratory bugs currently overwhelming hospitals.
Healthcare systems across the country have been pushed to the brink after an unusually high number of flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases, with some pediatric units forced to erect inflatable tents to treat patients in the parkings.
There are signs that both viruses may have already peaked, but last week the country received a further blow when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said they were investigating an increase severe Strep A infections – a normally harmless bacterial infection that has killed more than a dozen children in the UK and is increasing across Europe.
In a statement to DailyMail.com, the CDC said it is “hearing from some physicians and state health departments about an apparent increase in iGAS infections in children in parts of the United States and is investigating this. increase”.
In a notable shift in rhetoric, the agency added, “Like many infections during the COVID-19 pandemic, iGAS infections have declined significantly.
“Mitigation measures (e.g. school and workplace closures, masking) used during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have helped reduce the spread of many viruses and bacteria.”
This map shows where a slight increase in Strep A infections is being reported in the United States so far. Texas Children’s Hospital, the nation’s largest, says it is seeing four times as many children with strep A as at the same time last year. The CDC only confirmed ‘anecdotal reports’ of rising infections in the US
The CDC says, however, that it’s unclear if there are more infections this year than in previous ones, or if the wave is simply hitting America earlier than usual.
Immune naivety has contributed to the eruption of a “triple epidemic” in the United States this year, with RSV and influenza both breaking out this winter alongside Covid.
Bacterial infections like strep A often strike after viral illnesses because a person’s immune system has been worn down and cannot fight bacteria as effectively.
Alarms have been raised that Strep A infections this year could be deadlier than previous ones after a string of severe cases in the UK caused 19 deaths, an unusually high number for the season.
It is usually a mild illness that is most dangerous for older people. The CDC says about 14,000 to 25,000 Americans are infected each year and 1,500 to 2,300 die.
At least two children have died from Strep A in Colorado in recent weeks, raising fears the US could experience a pediatric outbreak similar to what is happening in the UK.
In another worrying sign, doctors in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Washington and West Virginia are also reporting an increase in serious Strep A infections this year.
The CDC doesn’t track infection the same way it does for viral illnesses like Covid, influenza and RSV, making national infection and death numbers unclear.
Symptoms of strep A include rashes and sores around the body, flushed cheeks, sore throat, muscle aches, and fever. It is a relatively mild disease that does not cause many pediatric deaths each year.
America’s tripledemic has already peaked: flu cases drop 30% in one week
America’s dreaded ‘tripledemia’ looks set to be short-lived, with weekly flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) numbers already down.
Today’s weekly flu report shows there were just over 30,000 confirmed flu infections nationwide in the week ending December 10.
Although this is preliminary data, it is a 30% drop from the previous week and the first time cases have fallen since the start of the flu season.
Meanwhile, Dr Ashish Jha told a White House press briefing on Thursday that RSV infections had already peaked with numbers starting to come down “pretty quickly”.
Fears of a so-called ‘triple epidemic’ first emerged over the summer when Australia and New Zealand – whose winters fall within the US summer – suffered seasons devastating flu.
Experts have pointed to lockdowns, mask mandates and other pandemic orders over the past two years as the reason this year’s flu season has been more brutal than those in the past.
Dr Kathryn Moffet, a pediatric infectious disease expert at West Virginia University Medicine in Morgantown, told DailyMail.com her hospital was seeing more cases than usual.
His hospital, the largest in the state, was seeing more children than usual showing Step symptoms in early December than the usual year.
She blamed abnormal flu patterns in previous years – where viruses like influenza and RSV barely circulated.
“We have interrupted the transmission of our virus. We didn’t have the normal [circulation] where you would expect RSV and pneumonia [in young children]” she told DailyMail.com.
“A lot of what we’ve done with social distancing and masks [caused this].’
At Texas Children’s Hospital, the state’s largest pediatric hospital in Houston, doctors are reporting a four-fold increase in Strep infections this year from pre-Covid levels.
Doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital reported an increase in cases to NBC last week.
At Children’s Hospital Colorado, officials reported that more children ages 10 months to six years were being hospitalized than usual for complications from strep A.
The situation is exacerbated by a shortage of amoxicillin that currently plagues the country.
The antibiotic is often used by young children with illnesses like influenza and RSV to prevent bacterial infections from appearing soon after.
Supply chain issues and a surge in demand caused by an unusually brutal flu season left the drug in short supply in the United States.
There is hope that the brutal US flu season, dubbed the worst since the 2009 swine flu pandemic by some experts, may soon be over.
The CDC reported 31,287 confirmed influenza infections in the week ending Dec. 10, down 30% from the previous week.
RSV cases also continued their steep decline, with the 4,391 recorded cases being a 63% drop from the previous week – and the lowest total since late September.
The Covid is on the rise again as the annual nuisance decreases. The United States recorded 65,550 daily infections last week, a 26% jump over the past two weeks.
Deaths have also increased by 63% over the past two weeks to 408 per day.
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