Seasonal flu and RSV are on the rise nationwide. Are you prepared?
Flu cases are surging. Thirty-five states and regions are now reporting "high" or "very high" flu activity levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) flu activity map. With the holiday season underway and families gathering, experts believe flu cases will continue to rise without more aggressive preventive action. The CDC estimates that about 11 of every 100,000 people have been hospitalized with the flu since October, which is the highest in the past decade. Additionally, the CDC has logged at least 6.2 million flu illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 flu-related so far this season.
The flu isn’t the only virus doctors are concerned about right now. Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) have also increased throughout U.S. RSV is a common virus that primarily occurs during the fall and winter cold-and-flu season. Its symptoms are like the flu and COVID-19, including fever, runny nose and congestion.
However, for young children, older adults or people with compromised immune systems, RSV can develop into more serious conditions like bronchitis and pneumonia. According to the CDC, an estimated 177,000 older adults and 58,000 children under five are hospitalized each year due to RSV infection.
Why the rise in RSV and the flu?
Public health experts point to two main reasons for the increase in RSV and flu cases. First, due to the relaxation of COVID-19 precautions, such as masking and physical distancing, people may be more susceptible than usual because of increased exposure to viruses and weakened immune systems.
Second, experts often look at the planet’s southern hemisphere, which is just wrapping up its flu season, as a sign of what might happen in the U.S. This year’s flu season began weeks earlier than usual in Australia and New Zealand, and the number of cases and hospitalizations were much higher.
What you can do to protect yourself and your family
There’s currently no vaccine for RSV, but there are ways to limit its spread, and they’ll sound familiar:
- Wash hands.
- Sneeze or cough into a tissue or elbow rather than one’s hands.
- Boost immunity by getting plenty of sleep and eating a healthy diet.
- Wear a mask, especially when sick.
- Keep kids home from school and daycare when they are sick.
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot. People age 65 and older can get a higher-dose flu shot because they are at increased risk of serious complications from the flu. The flu vaccine offers the best protection against severe illness and death from the flu.
We’re here to help
Most Regence members are covered at 100% when they get their flu shot from an in-network provider or pharmacy. To find an in-network provider or pharmacy, Regence members can sign in to their account on regence.com or the Regence app. We’re also available to help online through live chat and the message center, or members can call the number on their Regence member ID card.