The viral tsunami that is COVID-19 has hit the United States, and influenza appears to be riding the crest of the wave.
according to the Centers for Disease Control. Flu-related visits went from 5.2% of all outpatient visits the week before to 5.8% during the week ending March 14.
“The COVID-19 outbreak unfolding in the United States may affect healthcare seeking behavior which in turn would impact data from” the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network, the CDC explained.
Data from clinical laboratories show that, despite the increased activity, fewer respiratory specimens tested positive for influenza: 15.3% for the week of March 8-14, compared with 21.1% the week before, the CDC’s influenza division said in its latest.
Influenza activity also increased slightly among the states, with 35 states and Puerto Rico at the highest level on the CDC’s 1-10 scale, versus 34 states and Puerto Rico the previous week. The count was down to 33 for the last week of February, CDC data show.
Severity measures remain mixed as overall hospitalization continues to be moderate but rates for children aged 0-4 years and adults aged 18-49 years are the highest on record and rates for children aged 5-17 years are the highest since the 2009 pandemic, the influenza division said.
Mortality data present a similar picture: The overall death rate is low, but the 149 flu-related deaths reported among children is the most for this point of the season since 2009, the CDC said.