RSV on the decline but a nasty flu strain is raging in Georgia

“Currently, the United States is experiencing a resurgence in the circulation of non-COVID-19 respiratory viruses,” said Dr. José R. Romero, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during a telebrief with the media on Friday. He pointed to high levels of flu; RSV, a common upper respiratory disease in children under 5; and rhinoviruses, which are the most common cause of the common cold.

“However, it is important to note that COVID-19 has not disappeared.”

The vast majority of children hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta are for respiratory viruses according to a spokesperson. Flu-related hospitalizations are driving the current attack.

RSV, which had increased in infants and young children in August, September and October, has slowed in recent weeks. The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 at The Children’s is a distant third.

Dr. Andi Shane, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University, said most children hospitalized at Children’s with the flu had not been vaccinated. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get their flu shot every year by the end of October, though the agency stresses it’s better to get the shot later than not. vaccinate at all. A flu shot can prevent infection, and among those who still get the flu, vaccination can reduce the severity of the disease

CDC data shows flu shot coverage for all children this year is 24.8%, comparable to vaccination rates at the same time last year of 25.2%.

Last month, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said they were seeing “unprecedented” numbers of sick children, forcing them to expand their emergency room with a tent erected in a parking lot. The hospital is also urging non-pediatric emergency rooms to care for some children, especially older teens, instead of moving them to Children’s, according to a spokesperson.

A hospital spokesperson declined to provide specific numbers, but said the increase was two to three times their normal patient volume.

As of Friday afternoon, according to the hospital system’s website, emergency room wait times were over three hours at all children’s hospitals in Atlanta.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as people stayed home and wore masks, cases of influenza and RSV fell to historic lows. Many people, especially young children, have not developed immunity because they have not been exposed to viruses. Now, amid the relaxation of COVID precautions, these diseases are making a comeback.

There is no vaccine for RSV and by age 2 almost all children have had the virus. Symptoms often resemble a cold and can include a runny nose, congestion, and fever. But in some cases, RSV can become dangerous, especially in infants, leading to respiratory problems and complications such as pneumonia.

Meanwhile, the flu, which got off to an unusually early and drastic start this fall, continues to escalate.

Georgia is one of nine states in the country, along with Washington, D.C., with “very high” flu activity, according to the CDC’s latest flu activity map..

Georgia’s Ministry of Public Health reports that about 6% of patient doctor visits were for influenza or flu-like illnesses in the week ending October 22, according to the most recent week for which figures are available. That’s up 5.9% from the previous week. There were 105 people in metro Atlanta hospitalized with the flu in the week ending Oct. 22, and so far this season two adults have died from the flu in Georgia, according to DPH.

AJC data journalist Stephanie Lamm contributed to this article.


The flu by the numbers in Georgia

6% – estimated percentage of patient visits to doctors for influenza or influenza-like illnesses.

105 – number of people hospitalized with flu in metro Atlanta

2 – number of people in the state who have died from the flu so far this season

Source: Georgia Department of Public Health and based on the most recent available surveillance for the week ending October 22.

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