Flu, RSV on Decline, but COVID Deaths Persist

2 min read

Jan. 30, 2023 – Respiratory illness levels in the U.S. have declined so much in recent weeks that they are approaching numbers usually seen during non-flu season.

Just 3% of flu tests are coming back positive, according to the CDC’s weekly Fluview report. Case counts for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) emergency department visits are now below summertime levels. Both illnesses raged in record-shattering fashion just a couple of months ago. 

“This flu season started really early because there were so many children with zero experience with flu, common colds, and RSV,” David Celentano, ScD, chair of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Vox.

Data is now pointing to what may amount to simply an early peak for flu and RSV. About 25 million people in the U.S. have had the flu this year and 17,000 people have died of it. 

The once record-setting hospitalization rate for the flu has fizzled so much that this season may finish up below average for hospitalizations, the CDC projected. The agency said this year’s flu vaccine has been very effective against circulating strains.

COVID-19 metrics are also trending steeply downward, with some western parts of the U.S. reporting “some of their lowest-ever case and hospitalization rates,” The New York Times reported.

Despite fewer COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations nationwide, the virus remains deadly, with most January days seeing more than 500 deaths each.

The CDC’s weekly COVID-19 report predicted that the XBB.1.5 variant would be circulating nationally above 50% for the first time this week. The report authors also said the nation is now officially monitoring a new variant that is more widespread internationally called CH.1.1, which accounted for 1.5% of new cases last week in the U.S. and landed as the fifth-most common lineage in the country.