Flu-like activity finally dips below baseline
Influenza like illness: I was pleased to find in this week's CDC weekly influenza report that the U.S. has finally crossed over to the other side of the flu season. Even though dipping just below the threshold is not much different from hovering just above it, I am still feeling relief that healthier days are ahead.
The improvement came almost exclusively from the 0-4 age group, which has endured the bulk of the rough season. The percentage of doctor's visits for fever, cough, or sore throat dropped from 8.2% to 7.7% which is a step in the right direction, but still high. Influenza-like illness (ILI) activity remained stable in other age groups, with ages 5-24 at 3.8% and adults at less than 2%.
The number of jurisdictions reporting high ILI activity dropped from five to three this week. California and Washington, D.C., returned to “medium” levels, leaving New Mexico, Puerto Rico, and New York City in “high.” Those three jurisdictions have been stuck there for a while now. Hopefully, things will turn around for them soon.
COVID-19 activity continues to decline slowly. This week, the average of new reported daily cases was around 30,000, which is a decrease from 33,000 reported last week. Nationwide, hospitalizations are at 25,000, the lowest they've been since May. For some context, our all-time low was in the range of 15,000-16,000, which we reached back in June of 2021 (before the Delta variant arrived), and again in April of last year following the Omicron wave. Maine, Delaware, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina are relative hotspots; all except Maine show recent improvements.
Seasonal coronaviruses are finally receding after many weeks of ascent. The northeastern, midwestern, and southern regions all show improvements. The western region is looking less hopeful with test positivity continuing to increase, but I expect it will turn the corner soon as well.
Rhinovirus/enterovirus, another cause of common cold, is also improving.
No improvements yet in adenovirus or metapneumovirus, both of which have been circulating. Adenovirus infections can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from cold-like to pink eye to gastrointestinal symptoms. I’m pretty sure my kids got adenovirus recently. Metapneumovirus is a relative of RSV. Young children and older adults are at higher risk of severe infection from metapneumovirus. One “fun” fact is that it was only discovered in 2001.
I’m not seeing much improvement in norovirus activity yet. Test positivity is still rising according to data from Biofire. CDC data suggests that the southern region may have peaked, but a similar dip in the northeastern region recently rebounded, so I’m not getting my hopes up yet. Test positivity is still rising in the midwestern and western regions.
Norovirus spreads very easily from person to person, causing symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. For more on preventing norovirus, see my update from last week.
The following foods are being recalled because they are contaminated with bacteria that causes food poisoning. Please check your cupboards and throw out any of these items:
New this week:
Ready to eat shrimp sold by Lidl stores. (more info)
Canned shrimp sold by multiple grocers in California, Utah, Arizona, and California. (more info)
Reported in the last month:
The Ezricare/Delsam eye product recall has been expanded to include Artificial Eye Ointment due to contamination with a pathogen that could cause blindness. The original recall applied to Artificial Lubricant Eye Drops. (more info, more info).
There are outbreaks of Salmonella and Hepatitis A under investigation; no cause has been found yet. (more info)
There is also a multi-state outbreak of Listeria linked to deli meats and cheeses, but the specific source has not been identified. If you are pregnant, over the age of 65, or have a condition that weakens your immune system, consider avoiding meat or cheese from deli counters. (more info)
If you have food allergies, you may wish to review these FDA safety alerts for foods with undeclared allergens.
In other news
I am still concerned by a lack of regular updates from the Marburg outbreak in Equatorial Guinea. It’s not clear how much laboratory testing is being done, which is crucial to diagnose cases. I hope the outbreak is coming under control but there is not enough publicly-available data to make an assessment. One province and one district are under cordon sanitaire (which means region-wide quarantine or movement restriction).
I answered reader questions on pandemic preparedness for the New York Times yesterday. Read more ➡️ here (I’m in the second half).
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