Emergency room visits related to three of the most disruptive viruses – the flu, respiratory syncytial virus and Covid – are falling across the country.
But does that mean that the fear of “triplets” is over? Hardly, experts say. Viruses are difficult to predict.
“We’ve all learned over the last few years that when you try to predict Covid, you get slapped in the face,” said Dr. Katie Passaretti, vice president and chief enterprise epidemiologist for Atrium Health in Charlotte, Carolina. North.
Still, hospital emergency room visits for the biggest viral threats began falling in December, and the decline continued this month. This is especially true for the flu.
Children got double viral infections
It is “hazardous” to try to guess what the flu will do between now and the end of the flu season, warned Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “It is impossible to predict what will happen next.”
As most families already know, the flu and other viruses are especially hard on children compared to adults, according to a study published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Schaffner is a co-author, along with Dr. Christine Thomas, an epidemic information service officer at the CDC who works with the Tennessee Department of Health.
“We were very curious to see what this year would look like” after several years of almost no flu, Thomas said.
Their report focused on 4,626 people in Tennessee who received a flu test in mid-November. According to researchers, the flu was early and it hit the children the hardest. Children were twice as likely to test positive as adults, and tended to be sicker, especially if they were infected with several viruses at the same time, such as the common cold caused by influenza.
A separate study from earlier this week found that children hospitalized with Covid had more severe symptoms if they also had another virus.
Children age 5 and younger are at risk because their tiny immune systems may not have been exposed to many common viruses during the pandemic.
“If you get a double infection, it tends to make you sicker, you have the potential to stay in the hospital a little bit longer,” Schaffner said.
Flu hospitalizations for very young children in Tennessee have already reached peak levels seen in other bad flu seasons, at 12.6 per 100,000, the new study found. This is similar to what has been reported nationally.
But this season is not over. While most flu cases so far have been A strains of the virus, B strains tend to emerge by spring.
“I suspect we will have more bumps in the road this respiratory viral season,” Passaretti said. She was not involved in the new study.
Few people tested for flu in Tennessee report being vaccinated. Only 23% of children and 34% of adults caught their flu.
And influenza A does not provide immunity to strain B. That is, a person can get the flu twice in one season.
“That’s a reason to still get vaccinated,” Schaffner said. “The flu probably won’t go away completely until we get into early summer.”
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