Virus season heats up ahead of holiday gatherings

Respiratory virus season is heating up in the U.S., and hospitals are starting to feel the effects amid an influx of respiratory syncytial virus and influenza patients. Meanwhile, new COVID-19 admissions, which had been declining for several weeks straight, have stabilized. 

Here's a look at where things stand with COVID-19, flu and RSV as of Nov. 13, based on the latest available information: 

COVID-19: New weekly COVID-19 admissions have started to stabilize after five weeks of consecutive decline, though remain lower than this time last year. There were 14,728 new admissions for the week ending Nov. 4. Based on past trends, the nation may see another winter uptick in December or January, when flu also tends to peak. 

Flu: Activity is ramping up in most parts of the U.S., most noticeably in the South Central, Southeast and West Coast regions. Nearly 2,000 patients with lab-confirmed flu were admitted to a hospital for the week ending Nov. 3, an increase from the week prior, according to the CDC's most recent data. Alaska, New Mexico and Florida reported high flu activity for the week, while Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Washington, D.C., reported moderate flu activity. 

RSV: Nationwide, the positivity rate has increased from nearly 5% in mid-October to over 10%. Hospitals in the South have reported long emergency wait times and in some cases, having to hold critical patients in the ED until beds open up amid a spike in RSV. In Texas' Dallas-Fort Worth region, nearly all pediatric hospital beds are full. With RSV trends in the South often a harbinger of what's in store for the rest of the nation, hospitals have been bracing for capacity strain.

Health experts had been betting on a trio of vaccines to stave off severe illness and pressure on hospitals this virus season, though that largely depends on uptake ahead of virus season ramping up. According to estimates from late October, about 4% of the U.S. population had received the new COVID-19 shots since their rollout in mid-September. Nearly 30% of U.S. adults are estimated to have received a flu shot as of Oct. 28, according to CDC data

This year also marks the first time RSV vaccines are available for adults 60 and older, a group that is at high risk of severe disease, though the CDC has not published estimates on uptake. A new monoclonal antibody to prevent severe disease from RSV in babies is in short supply. With access not yet widespread, the pediatric community does not believe the antibody will have a significant effect on volumes this virus season. 


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