CDC Says Second Tripledemic Season May Have Peaked

2 min read

Jan. 16, 2024 – Raging rates of the flu, COVID-19, and RSV may have peaked during the holidays and appear to be on a downward track, according to new CDC data.

Positive test rates for the three “tripledemic” viruses dropped or remained stable for the week ending Jan. 6, and other measures are down, like emergency room reports of COVID and doctor office visits for the symptoms of fever plus coughing or a sore throat.

The agency cautioned, though, that the encouraging numbers could simply be due to fewer people seeking care during the holidays, and another week of data will be watched closely. The CDC acknowledged last week that the nation has been experiencing back-to-back tripledemics.

“The current season is the second season during which these three respiratory viruses have spread at high levels simultaneously,” the Friday report stated. “COVID-19 continues to cause a larger number of hospitalizations and has been involved in many more deaths than flu and RSV combined.”

Some of the most promising data is on the flu front, which showed 14% of tests were positive the first week of January, down from nearly 18% the week prior. Another measure of just how much cold and flu season is affecting the nation is what percentage of doctor office visits are due to people seeking treatment for the symptoms of a fever plus coughing or a sore throat, which is simply referred to as “respiratory illness.” During the first week of January, 6% of outpatient visits were for respiratory illness, down from 7% the week prior.

About 10,000 cases of RSV were reported to the CDC the first week of January, down from about 14,000 per week during the middle part of December. 

The positive rate of COVID tests reported to the CDC is holding steady at nearly 13%, but ER visits for COVID were down significantly for the week ending Jan. 6. Hospitalizations are still ticking upward, reaching 35,801 during the New Year’s week, but the increase was slowing, compared to prior weeks’ dramatic jumps.

The CDC said it is monitoring hospitals for signs of strain or bed shortages.

“In December, new hospital admissions for COVID-19 were up by more than 50%, while new hospital admissions for flu more than doubled from the end of November to the end of December. These increases are typical for this time of year, and short-term forecasts suggest elevated numbers of hospital admissions will continue,” the agency summarized in the same Friday report that confirmed this year as a tripledemic.