Kids make up a third of flu hospitalizations: CDC

Hospitals are already seeing predictions of a severe flu season unfold, with 1,674 flu patients admitted to hospitals nationwide for the week ending Oct. 14. Kids account for more than 30 percent of flu hospitalizations, the CDC told NBC News in an Oct. 24 report. 

Kids younger than 5 make up a third of pediatric flu hospitalizations. The uptick in flu cases comes amid a surge in respiratory syncytial virus that is causing severe strain in children's hospitals. 

"We see kids where, when we do the nasal swab, not only do they test positive for influenza, but they may have RSV or enterovirus or adenovirus at the same time," Mark Kline, MD, physician-in-chief at Children's Hospital New Orleans, told NBC. "We've seen kids where we've gotten two or three viruses at once." 

Already experiencing an unseasonably early and severe surge of RSV, children's hospitals are expecting the number of pediatric flu cases to double over the next few weeks. Physicians at Children's National in Washington, D.C., told NBC that in 2021, they treated eight flu cases between July and October. In 2022 alone, they've already treated 80 pediatric flu patients — a tenfold increase from last year. 

Health officials told NBC that young children are especially vulnerable to respiratory viruses now, since many were not exposed to common viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Reduced population immunity to circulating respiratory illnesses, particularly among young children who may never have had exposure or been vaccinated, could bring about a robust return of flu and other respiratory viruses, like RSV," Lynnette Brammer, team lead of the CDC's  domestic influenza surveillance team, told NBC

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