As respiratory viruses strain US health care systems, White House offers assistance

Nearly 20,000 people in the United States have been hospitalized with the flu, nearly double the number of cases from the previous week, according to updated data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Dec. 2. (Tero Vesalainen, Adobe Stock)

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WASHINGTON – Nearly 20,000 people in the United States were hospitalized with the flu last week, nearly double the number of cases of the flu from the previous week, according to updated data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.

The CDC estimates at least 8.7 million illnesses this season; The CDC estimates 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from the flu.

In a Friday letter to the country’s governors, US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra noted the “increasing strain” of influenza and other respiratory viruses on the nation’s health care systems.

In a letter obtained exclusively by CNN, Becerra wrote that the Biden administration “stands ready to continue to support you with resources, support and personnel.”

Last month, children’s health leaders called for a formal emergency declaration from the federal government to support hospitals and communities amid a surge in childhood respiratory illnesses, including “respiratory viral and influenza, and children’s mental health emergencies.”

While the Biden administration has not declared a public health emergency for RSV or influenza, Becerra’s public health emergency declaration for COVID-19 outlines ways to address COVID-19 and other respiratory challenges more broadly. Seasonal diseases.

“The administration has implemented regulatory flexibility to help health care providers and suppliers continue to respond to COVID-19. That flexibility — while critical to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic — can address many of the challenges you face during non-pandemic COVID-19 illnesses, including RSV and influenza.” said in the letter. “Influenza, RSV, In response to COVID-19 and other illnesses, you and your health care providers are there so you can all get care.”

for example, If a hospital has a staff shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic; Even if patients need treatment for something other than COVID-19. Even if patients need treatment for something other than COVID-19. such as influenza or RSV.

data, including other respiratory diseases such as influenza and RSV; It also highlights available funding, including $400 million from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to prepare for and respond to public health threats each year, along with analytical and other planning resources. The federal government is united. The federal government is monitoring the supply chain for critical drugs and equipment, and federal health officials have engaged with the nation’s governors over the past month through a meeting hosted by the National Governors Association, it said.

“As your federal partner, we stand ready to evaluate requests for federal health assistance and support, including requests for medical personnel and equipment – and coordinate closely with you and local jurisdictions to determine the availability of resources that meet the needs of you,” Becerra wrote.

Flu activity is highest in the South, spreading from El Paso to southwest Virginia. All six states are experiencing “high” or “very high” respiratory virus levels, and seasonal flu activity is “high and continuing to increase,” the CDC said.

This season, there are nearly 17 flu hospitalizations per 100,000 people. Usually seen in December or January. Hospitalization rates have not been this high at this point in the season in more than a decade.

The latest monitoring data only captures November 26, two days after Thanksgiving, so it doesn’t reflect the full impact of holiday gatherings.

While the flu continues to rise, While RSV is showing signs of slowing nationally, test results are still higher than last year, 10 times higher than normal for this point in the season. less than two months This season’s RSV hospitalization rate is already close to the total RSV hospitalization rate from the entire 2018-19 season.

There is still no vaccine for RSV, but health officials are urging people to get their flu shots and COVID-19 boosters heading into winter. As the holiday season — and flu season — gets under way, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned this week of a potential emergency.

“You have very little wiggle room in an intensive care bed, and you have, like, closed intensive care beds, which is bad for kids who have RSV and need intensive care. But all the beds are for kids, and people with a lot of other illnesses that require an intensive care unit or an ICU don’t have a bed for it,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday. “

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