Dec 13, 2022 - News

Flu cases on the rise around Tampa Bay

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The country's worst influenza outbreak in more than a decade has left nearly every state with high or very high levels of flu activity, including Florida.

Why it matters: This year's caseload underscores how the return to pre-pandemic life has left us "immunologically naïve" and more vulnerable to seasonal respiratory diseases, Axios' Adriel Bettelheim reports.

  • Along with the flu, more Floridians are getting COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Zoom in: Statewide COVID hospitalizations rose by more than 30% in two weeks, with much of that increase from older people and those with pre-existing health conditions, WUSF reports.

By the numbers: For about every three COVID patients in Florida hospitals, there is one flu patient, the Palm Beach Post reports. That ratio was about 13-to-1 this time last year, according to the paper.

How it happened: Paul Nanda, chief medical officer of TGH Urgent Care, told Axios that a few factors played into the recent rise in sickness in Tampa Bay.

  • RSV season came early this year, he said, with cases rising in November and December when they usually hold off until January and February.
  • We're also seeing the effects of Florida's low turnout for flu shots — which this year have been found to be more effective than previous years — and Omicron boosters, Nanda said.

Be smart: It's not too late to get a flu shot and be protected for the holidays, Nanda urged.

  • "As the virus mutates and evolves, it becomes more important to get your flu shot and COVID booster, especially if you're at higher risk," he said.
  • Parents of children born prematurely and younger than age 2 should ask their pediatricians about preventive medications, he said.

If you do get COVID and are at higher risk for hospitalization, antivirals are available, Nanda noted.

  • At TGH Urgent Care clinics, people who test positive and are considered high risk can get antiviral treatments for free.
  • Paxlovid, used to treat COVID infections, is available at most pharmacies.

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