Dec 6, 2022 - News

COVID-19, flu and RSV cases rise in Austin area

Illustration of a thermometer shaped like an upwards arrow, with the mercury rising.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Texas hospitalsalready vulnerable from the COVID-19 pandemic — are again being inundated as the flu and other respiratory diseases spike across the state.

Driving the news: The number of patients visiting Travis County clinics for influenza-like symptoms surged in October. It's the earliest the flu season has started since at least 2018.

Why it matters: It's the country's worst flu outbreak in more than a decade, leaving nearly every state with high or very high levels of flu activity and underscoring how pandemic precautions may have left us more vulnerable to seasonal respiratory diseases, writes Axios' Adriel Battelheim.

  • Flu-connected hospital admissions over Thanksgiving week almost doubled over the previous week and were the highest seen for that period since the 2010-2011 season, per the CDC.
  • The CDC estimates that there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from flu so far this season.

By the numbers: CDC data shows Texas with "very high" numbers of patients with influenza-like illness, and the state's health agency reported more than 32% positive influenza cases as of Nov. 26, the latest data available.

  • That's an increase of 4% from the week prior.

Zoom in: Austin-area hospitals have reported that rising flu cases and other respiratory illnesses — usually respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — led to a spike in pediatric hospitalizations earlier this fall.

The bottom line: Holiday gatherings will continue to increase new flu, RSV and COVID-19 cases.

  • "If you haven't already, please get your seasonal flu shot," Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County's health authority, said in a statement. "If we can limit the prevalence of those viruses in our community, it will help our already short-staffed health care system care for high-risk patients."

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