ASHEVILLE, NC – January 24, 2024 – There is a surge of respiratory viral infections, like COVID-19, influenza (the flu) and RSV, as people spend more time indoors during the cold winter months and due to an increase in indoor gatherings and travel during the holidays. However, the COVID pandemic has made us aware that we can take steps to reduce spreading respiratory viruses. Therefore, we have to protect at-risk groups, like older adults and the immunocompromised, who remain susceptible to getting severely ill.
The COVID-19 metrics are on the CDC’s COVID Dashboard. For the week ending on January 13th
- Hospital admission levels are low in about two thirds of the counties in North Carolina, including Buncombe County, and high in 0%. They are low in more than 60% of the counties in the U.S. and high in less than 5%. Admissions have decreased in the U.S. by about 10%, increased in North Carolina by about 3% and increased in Buncombe County by about 8% from the previous week.
- About 5% of the deaths in North Carolina were due to COVID, the 3rd highest level of 6 groups.
- Emergency room visits for COVID-19 are low in North Carolina. This represents about 2% of all ER visits, the 2nd lowest of 5 levels and a moderate decrease from the previous week.
Wastewater monitoring can be used to provide early warning for COVID outbreaks. The Buncombe & Henderson counties wastewater data for the week ending on January 10th is on the North Carolina COVID Dashboard.
- The number of viral gene copies in each water sample is at a red level representing the highest level of 5 groups, currently between the 80th and 100th percentile relative to the past level measured at the same site.
- The 15-day rate of change of the number of viral gene copies in each water sample has decreased from the previous week, at -99% to -10%, the lowest level of 2 groups for a negative rate of change.
The CDC’s weekly flu surveillance report for the week ending on January 13th indicates that levels are either high or very high for every southern state from California to the East coast, except for New Mexico. North Carolina is at a high level, the 4th highest of 13 levels.
The CDC reports that the 3-week average for the RSV PCR test percent positivity in North Carolina had climbed to more than 10% from November 4th to December 16th reaching a peak of almost 15% around Thanksgiving. The most recent report on the week of January 13th shows that percent positivity is down to about 5%.
The weekly North Carolina Respiratory Virus Summary Dashboard was last updated for the week ending on January 13th. The percentage of emergency room visits for people with respiratory virus symptoms has decreased by 25%. Hospital admissions have increased for COVID and decreased for the flu from the week before. There were more admissions for COVID than the flu.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, the CDC director, told Yahoo Life, if you are starting to feel sick with a cough, sore throat or fever: get tested, get treatment, and stay home.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, tells USA Today.com that COVID-19 cases should increase over the winter as they have the past 3 years.
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, firstname.lastname@example.org