New Data: These States Have the Highest Rates of COVID, Flu, and RSV Right Now
National experts say there's one major factor attributing to the rise in case numbers—and one of these viruses is currently taking more lives than the others.
On December 1, 2023, the CDC released a report: While COVID-19 has demonstrated to be active year-round, the virus has also joined the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as contagious seasonal sicknesses that are all currently on the rise.
At the end of November, government trackers observed a notable surge in all three, with the flu seeing what arguably appeared to be the sharpest rise. CDC Director Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH, noted, “We are going back up again, which we expect after a lot of travel and gathering at Thanksgiving.”
Still, RSV and flu-related emergency room visits have steadily risen since October, while COVID cases, though increasing, remain lower than the end-of-summer peak.
Certain regions, however, are facing the most substantial impacts, with the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic grappling with COVID, and the South experiencing an RSV surge. Influenza is on the rise nationwide, particularly in the South Central, Southeast, Mountain, and West Coast areas. Some states are also witnessing increased pneumonia diagnoses and hospitalizations in children, attributed by the CDC to common pathogens without new concerns.
A few noted projections: Overall, the CDC does not foresee this season being more severe than the previous year, anticipating a comparable number of hospitalizations. However, uncertainties persist due to COVID-19’s ability to rapidly mutate, potentially evading vaccine and herd immunity. The timing of disease peaks remains critical, as simultaneous peaks could strain the healthcare system. Current COVID variants, while possibly more transmissible, are not expected to be more severe than previous existing strains.
Here’s where COVID, influenza, and RSV and said to be tracking the highest.
Positive COVID tests have increased across the country in comparison to previous weeks.
While COVID rates vary across different counties, the most prevalent uptick based on government trackers and wastewater samples, as reported by CBS, shows that Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin are seeing the greatest increases. Hospitalizations and deaths from respiratory diseases are predominantly linked to COVID.
The good news is that the latest variants, HV.1 and BA.2.86, generally result in overall mild illness.
Refer to this CDC tracker to get an idea of the positive case rate, hospitalizations, and other important information about the current COVID surge where you are.
Public health experts say RSV is contributing to increased hospitalizations mainly among children. Positivity rates are rising across all regions, as is expected this time of year. RSV numbers are highest in the South and may have hit a peak, though other areas of the country could continue to surge.
While RSV can be concerning for children, especially infant under six months of age, it can also be serious for people with compromised immunity and adults in their sixties. RSV vaccinations are available, particularly for infants, individuals with compromised immunity, and people over 65. Talk to your healthcare provider about options.
Flu cases are increasing nationwide. While we all naturally worry about COVID, since its novelty required such swift response in recent years, so far this year from the flu alone there have been 1.8 million illnesses, 17,000 hospitalizations, and 1,100 deaths.
According to the most recent data, these flu cases have occurred most predominantly in South Central, Southeast, Mountain, and West Coast regions. South Carolina and Louisiana are the two states reporting very high rates, though California, Colorado, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and parts of New York City are seeing significant cases. The CDC says flu infection rates are expected to increase through December. (Interestingly, flu infections hit impressive record lows in the years Americans were masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.)
Hospitalizations and emergency room visits are rising as well. H1N1 is reportedly the predominant strain so far for the 2023-2024 flu season.
How to protect yourself, your family, and your community
The message from the CDC—as it has been since before this wave—is: If you are sick stay home; if you must go out then be sure to mask, wash your hands often, and if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, do so—especially against COVID and flu.
So far the agency reports that nearly 40% of adults and children received this year’s flu season, but only about 7% have been vaccinated for protection from COVID. In terms of RSV, about 15% of those aged 60 and older received the current vaccine. Pregnant people are also generally advised to get the shot.
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