A Michigan health system is barring children under five from visiting its hospitals amid an outbreak of respiratory viruses on pediatric wards.
Corewell Health East, which operates 22 clinics across the state, will only allow young kids in if a family member is very unwell – or there is an end-of-life situation.
It comes as 13 schools in Alabama switched to remote learning amid a severe outbreak of seasonal illnesses.
Children five and younger are particularly vulnerable to the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — both of which are surging across Michigan and the US.
There has been a 500 per cent jump in positive tests for respiratory viruses among minors at Corewell in recent weeks – suggesting hospital spread.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 7,119 new RSV infections during the week that ended on October 29 – up from less than 2,000 in August.
Just over 7,500 cases of influenza were also reported nationwide that week — up from just a few hundred in August.
The unseasonably early and aggressive surge has filled pediatric hospitals across the country – with 78 per cent of the beds are occupied US-wide, and 72 per cent in Michigan.
Americans are thought to be particularly at risk of severe disease this year because stay-at-home orders robbed them of exposure to healthy germs.
Corewell Health East is barring visitors under five from its 22 hospitals amid a surge of RSV and the flu. The hospital reports a 500 per cent increase in pediatric respiratory illnesses in recent weeks. Young children are especially vulnerable to viruses like RSV
The flu has rapidly spread across America in recent months, with the number of states experiencing ‘high’ flu activity increasing from two during the week that ended on October 8 to 11 during the week that ended October 29
Cases of influenza are fast-rising in the US according to CDC data, eclipsing the 7,000 mark during the final week of October
Confirmed PCR cases in the US peaked two weeks ago, but test positivity increased to 18.9 per cent this week, a point the figure has not reached in the past two years. This signals that cases are rising even as official figures fall
‘We’re seeing an unprecedented number of patients in our emergency departments and upper respiratory infection caused by RSV,’ Dr Matthew Denenberg, chief of pediatrics at the hospital system told ABC.
‘It’s been a really early and severe year for RSV. Worse than any other year that I’ve seen. I’ve been doing this 20 years.’
The CDC reports that up to 500 children in America die from RSV each year.
Entire Alabama school district of 5,000 students switches to remote learning amid influenza outbreak
Thirteen schools in Alabama have switched to remote learning amid a surging flu outbreak, with virus hospitalizations in the state three times higher than normal.
The Marshall County school district said it was suspending in-person teaching for four days.
The closures will ‘mitigate the spread of the virus’, according to the school which said it can’t stay open due to rising teacher absences.
Last week CDC data revealed America is facing its worst flu crisis in a decade with seventeen states already recording ‘high’ or ‘very high’ levels of the disease.
The move will see more than 5,000 elementary and high school students forced to complete their lessons at home rather than in the classroom.
Students will have to log on to the school system from home to access their lesson materials. Some parents have already raised concerns, suggesting their child does not have access to a computer at home.
In young children, an infection can often cause pneumonia or inflammation of airways in the lungs. These are potentially deadly symptoms.
Health officials have long warned that this year’s flu season would be more brutal than years past.
Common viruses like the flu largely disappeared during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, as masking and social distancing prevented spread.
They are roaring back this year, though, as many do not have the necessary immune protection to fight off the virus.
Some have even warned of a ‘tripledemic’ as the flu, RSV and COVID-19 all usually reach their peak at the end of the year.
Confirmed RSV cases reached 9,832 during the week that ended on October 22, according to the CDC.
While weekly figures have since declined, the jump in test positivity signals the true amount of cases is rising.
Test positivity is considered a more accurate measure of an outbreak because it accounts for fluctuations in the numbers of tests carried out.
The 18.9 per cent test positivity rate is the highest of this season so far – growing from only 15 per cent last week, and is higher than it was at any point in the last two years.
The flu is surging across America for the first time since Covid hit as well, with the US south being slammed the hardest.
According to the CDC, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee are all reporting ‘very high’ levels of influenza activity – as of most recent data from October 29.
In Tennessee, 8.7 per cent of outpatients at hospitals in the state are showing flu-like symptoms – shattering the CDC baseline of 3.1 per cent as an acceptable level.
Alabama’s figure eclipsed 10 per cent during the final week of October – tripling from three per cent only two weeks earlier.
According to official state data, outpatients showing flu-like symptoms peaked at around five per cent at the end of 2021.
The outbreak reached such a point in north Alabama that the Marshall County school district – which includes 5,000 students across 13 schools – went into remote learning this week.
South Carolina is recording exorbitantly high rates of flu-like symptoms as well. Just under 11 per cent of outpatients in the Palmetto state are displaying flu-like symptoms.
The CDC is also reporting ‘very high’ flu activity in Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas and North Carolina.
While other viruses surge, COVID-19 cases have remained flat in recent weeks – even as the cold weather months – that usually brought in a fresh a surge in previous years – arrive.
The US is currently recording 40,000 new infections each day, a six per cent increase over the past two weeks.
America is suffering 300 daily deaths from the virus as well, a 15 per cent fall across 14 days.
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