Although the “triple epidemic” – COVID-19, RSV and influenza – remains a problem in many places, experts say the flu is starting to hit the country hard.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, said he saw the first signs that RSV infections could stabilize after an early jump, while COVID-19 “smolders”.
But “the flu is fierce,” he said.
About 20,000 people were hospitalized with the flu last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly double the number from the previous week.
“Flu hospitalizations continue to be the highest we’ve seen at this time of year in a decade,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a briefing on Tuesday.
Here’s what you need to know:
More US health news TODAY:
COVID, RSV, influenza: the state of the “triple epidemic”
COVID-19[FEMININE: Les experts disent que les cas de coronavirus ne donnent plus une image précise de la pandémie alors que les Américains testent à domicile et que les résultats ne sont pas signalés. Mais les responsables de la santé constatent une augmentation des cas et des hospitalisations depuis Thanksgiving, a déclaré Walensky. Au cours de la dernière semaine de novembre, le CDC a rapporté :
- 4 650 hospitalisations
- 1 780 décès
VRS : La transmission reste élevée mais semble avoir « culminé » dans le sud et le sud-est, et se « stabilise » dans le centre de l’Atlantique, la Nouvelle-Angleterre et le Midwest, a déclaré Walensky.
Grippe: Trente et une juridictions aux États-Unis, qui comprennent des États, des grandes villes et des territoires, signalent un niveau “très élevé” d’activité grippale, et 16 signalent des niveaux “élevés”, selon le CDC. Jusqu’à présent cette saison, l’agence a rapporté:
- 8,7 millions de cas
- 78 000 hospitalisations
- 4 500 décès
Flu symptoms: what does the flu look like?
Flu symptoms: Fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headache and fatigue.
Flu strains: There are four types of influenza viruses – A, B, C, and D – but the strains that typically cause seasonal flu are influenza A and B. The CDC says that influenza C primarily causes mild illness and influenza D is normally seen in cattle, not people.
How long does the flu last?
Signs and symptoms of the flu usually go away after three to seven days, according to the CDC, but general weakness and fatigue can last up to two weeks.
Read more vaccine news:
Flu vaccine: where to get vaccinated against the flu?
This year’s flu shot matches well with the three strains Schaffner said he sees most often in Nashville. According to experts, the prevalence of all three strains at the same time “explains, at least in part, (for) why we have so much flu,” he said.
But too few people get the flu shot. About 40% of children were vaccinated by November 19 and about 36% of adults by the end of October, according to the latest available data from the CDC.
“Here, like everywhere, the acceptance of the flu vaccine has been disappointing,” he said. “People are really getting vaccine fatigue.”
Experts say it’s never too late to get a flu shot. Here’s where to get one:
- The doctor’s office: Experts advise people to call ahead before making an appointment to make sure the vaccine they want or need is available.
- Pharmacy: Major drugstore retailers, such as Walgreens and CVS, offer flu shots and accept walk-ins or online appointments.
What is the difference between a cold and the flu?
Cold symptoms are generally less severe than flu symptoms, but many symptoms overlap: fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and general fatigue.
According to experts, the only definitive way to know the difference between a cold and the flu is through testing. Patients can be tested for COVID-19 and influenza simultaneously with a single swab.
How to treat the flu
Experts say most flu infections can be treated at home with rest and plenty of fluids. Doctors may, however, prescribe an antiviral to patients who are at risk of serious illness.
Four antivirals are licensed for influenza in the United States, but the most widely used is known by its brand name Tamiflu.
But antivirals work best when taken early in illness, so it’s important to discuss options with a doctor before you get sick, said Dr. Pedro Piedra, professor of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medical.
“We are now definitely in flu season, and there are a lot of them around us,” he said. “It’s important to plan ahead.”
Contributor: Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY. Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
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