Flu activity remains elevated in the United States, with 42 states reporting high or very high rates of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) according to CDC, and some experts fear January could see a rise in flu cases as people return to work and school after the holidays.
According to CDC, Minnesota and New Hampshire are reporting minimal levels of ILI, Hawaii and South Dakota are reporting low levels of ILI, and Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, and Wyoming are reporting moderate ILI levels. Every other state in the country is reporting either high or very high levels of ILI.
For the week ending in Dec. 24, 18,848 patients were hospitalized with the flu. In addition, the percentage of ILI outpatient provider visits was 6.1%, higher than the national baseline of 2.5%.
So far this flu season, CDC estimates that there have been at least 20 million flu illnesses, 9.4 million flu medical visits, 210,000 flu hospitalizations, and 13,000 flu deaths.
There were 14 pediatric deaths from the flu reported the week ending in Dec. 24, bringing the total number of pediatric flu deaths this season to 61.
Chris Peltier, a pediatrician at Pediatric Associates of Mt. Carmel, said that "once kids start back in school," he anticipates "we're definitely going to see an increase in flu as well as other respiratory illnesses, unfortunately."
"I still think we're going to see lots of flu in January and February," Peltier said. "If you haven't gotten your kids vaccinated against influenza, I would definitely consider that."
Similarly, Steve Feagins, medical director of Hamilton County Public Health in Ohio, said there "probably will" be an increase in flu cases in January. "To the extent we've seen here recently? Hard to say … if you've seen one flu season, you've seen one flu season," he said.
Feagins added that his hospital is at high capacity. "We are pretty full, especially our emergency departments," he said. "But that's going to happen during a holiday season because a lot of doctors' offices or clinics are not necessarily open, so you see more in the emergency department, and we are."
As cases of flu, Covid-19, and respiratory syncytial virus continue throughout the United States, pharmacies are continuing to limit purchases of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines in an effort to keep up with demand.
Walgreens has implemented a limit of six packages of children's pain and fever medications online to "prevent excess purchasing behavior," but does not have any limits in place for in-person purchases.
Similarly, Rite Aid has placed a five-product limit on online purchases of children's Tylenol and Motrin, but also does not have any limits on in-store purchases.
However, CVS has placed a two-product limit on all children's pain relief products both in person and online "to ensure equitable access for all our customers," according to a spokesperson for the company. "We're committed to meeting our customers' needs and are working with our suppliers to ensure continued access to these items," the spokesperson added. (Nimmo, WCPO, 1/2, Christensen, CNN, 12/28)
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