Virus ED visits jump 21%: 4 hospital trends to know

Heading into the week of Christmas, new hospitalizations and emergency department visits for respiratory viruses continued to rise nationwide. 

There were nearly 220,000 combined ED visits for COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus for the week ending Dec. 23, with flu accounting for the majority of the visits. This marks a 21% increase from the week prior, when 181,462 ED visits were recorded, according to the latest CDC data. Overall, hospitalization rates are highest among adults 65 and older and young children. 

As measures of respiratory virus activity continue to tick up, some hospitals are already operating under significant strain, sparking renewed concerns that healthcare systems could face another capacity crisis later this season. 

"We're treading water OK right now," Sallie Permar, MD, PhD, chief pediatrician at Weill Cornell Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, told The Atlantic in a recent report. "Add much more, and we're thrown into a similar situation as last year."

Three more hospital trends to know: 

COVID: New weekly hospital admissions rose for the sixth week straight, with 25,577 reported for the week ending Dec. 16 — a 10% jump from the week before. The increase comes as a new variant, JN.1, quickly gains ground in the U.S., making up more than 44% of cases. Experts previously predicted the strain would gain dominance around Christmas, indicating it could kick start a new wave around New Year's. 

Flu: Most parts of the country continue to see an increase in flu activity, with nearly 10,000 flu patients admitted to hospitals for the week ending Dec. 16. The overall cumulative hospitalization rate so far this season is 11.3 per 100,000 population. 

RSV: Hospitalization rates for RSV remain elevated, and continue to increase in many areas of the country, with slight decreases seen in some states in the Southeast. The hospitalization rate is highest among children under 4 at nearly 23 per 100,000. 


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