California is reporting very high flu levels, among the worst in the US

California is reporting very high flu levels, among the worst in the US

  • US News
  • December 3, 2022
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California is now reporting very high levels of flu as the respiratory illness continues to rise nationwide, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC uses five overall levels, ranging from minimal to very high, to measure influenza-like illness in the United States and its territories. On Friday, the agency’s color-coded map showed California and 10 other states along with New York City in purple, the worst of the three shades of very high flu.

Since early October, CDC officials estimate there have been 78,000 flu hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths nationwide.

The California Department of Health and Human Services categorizes all of Southern California as having high influenza scores, while central and northern California are classified as moderate. Influenza accounts for nearly 4% of weekly hospitalizations at Kaiser’s Northern California facilities, the highest number in any of the previous four flu seasons.

In Los Angeles County, flu and COVID-19 cases are rising, and RSV — or respiratory syncytial virus — also remains at high levels.

“This triple threat … has great potential to result in significant circulating disease and put a strain on our healthcare system — both in terms of the number of beds available and the number of healthcare workers affected by disease, which decreases the capacity of the hospital.” to take care of patients,” LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a recent briefing.

LA County’s flu positivity rate has reached 25%, a level not seen at this time of year in the past four years. “Obviously we’re … off the charts,” Ferrer said.

“We are already seeing many people being hospitalized for flu-related illnesses and complications. Please, we are urging people not to think of this as just ‘just the flu’. It’s not too late to get vaccinated against seasonal flu,” she added.

California has recorded at least 36 flu-related deaths since early October, based on death certificate data. This number is probably an undercount.

LA County Flu Positivity Rate

The positivity rate for RSV also remains elevated — about 15%, higher than any of the previous four cold and flu years, which lasted from October to September.

There is some evidence that RSV activity in LA County may have peaked in early November and is now beginning to decline. At the end of October, the positivity rate was over 20%, according to the county. But it’s possible the 15% rate is simply because more people are being tested for the virus, Ferrer said.

“The current percent positivity, even though it’s gone down, still surpasses the highest percent positivity we’ve seen in the last five seasons,” Ferrer said. “So still an alarming number of people testing positive for RSV.”

RSV positivity rate in LA County

At Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, the RSV positivity rate is 23%. That’s down significantly since Nov. 1, when the rate was 38%. But the most recent number is still quite high, roughly in line with the peak for all of last winter, which was 24%. The CHLA emergency department is so busy that it cannot always accommodate patient transfers from other hospitals.

The CHLA flu positivity rate is 19%; before Thanksgiving it was 12%.

Orange County’s RSV situation remains the same as the previous week, when officials declared a public health emergency over RSV and other viral diseases plaguing children’s hospitals, according to its health agency.

Rising coronavirus-positive hospitalizations are exacerbating the RSV situation, as a surge in COVID-19 hospitalized patients means fewer hospital beds are available, the agency said.

At Kaiser’s Northern California hospitals, approximately 2.2% of hospital admissions are related to RSV, according to the latest available data, up from 2.3% last week. These rates are higher than in the five previous cold and flu seasons.

Since early October, there have been at least 14 deaths related to RSV, according to the California death certificate. The number is probably an undercount.

“Caution is warranted given the high level of RSV activity,” Ferrer said. “RSV often affects young children most severely, causing bronchiolitis [inflammation of the airways] and pneumonia. It is important to take precautions to prevent respiratory diseases. This includes frequent hand washing and, for RSV, especially wiping down frequently touched surfaces.”

Health experts say that one of the easiest ways to reduce your risk of catching the flu or other viral diseases is to avoid touching your face.

The CDC notes that people can become infected with the flu and RSV by touching contaminated surfaces, where some viruses can survive for days, and then their face.

“The only point I would like to reiterate is … avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth,” said Dr. Ralph Gonzales, Associate Dean of UC San Francisco, recently at an on-campus town hall. “Very good studies have shown that if we redouble our efforts to be vigilant about this, our chances of staying flu-free increase.”

Still, this simple-sounding advice might be easier said than done. Touching your face can be a spontaneous or even unconscious act that some research shows may help us deal with fear and discomfort, or is associated with negative or unsatisfying feelings.

And it’s something that happens often. A 2015 study caught medical students touching their faces an average of 23 times an hour in class.

Here are some tips on how to train yourself to avoid touching your face.

Be careful when you touch your face and catch yourself – and preferably before – you. try to ignore it If that bothers you, wash your hands, then scratch them and wash your hands again. Or buy sterile wooden tongue depressors to use as an anti-itch remedy.

Regular handwashing is also an important step in thwarting the spread of the virus, officials say. If soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer can be used as a substitute.

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