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44 states experiencing high levels of respiratory illness

Respiratory illness is on the rise across the United States, with 44 states now experiencing high levels amid a worsening flu season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 31 U.S. jurisdictions, which includes territories and Washington, D.C., had “very high” levels of respiratory illness and 16 jurisdictions had “high” levels last week. Only 19 jurisdictions had very high levels and 17 jurisdictions had high levels the week before. 

The figures include patients who have a respiratory illness with a fever and a cough or sore throat, not necessarily laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu. Some patient records may be of other respiratory pathogens that cause illnesses with similar symptoms. 

Nine jurisdictions had moderate levels of the illness in the week ending Nov. 19, but that dropped to two last week as the number of places with high and very high levels grew. 

Only New Hampshire, Vermont, Michigan and Alaska have a minimal or low level of illness. West Virginia and Hawaii have moderate levels. 

Eleven states, including California, Texas and Virginia, are experiencing the highest level of respiratory illness activity. 

The number of new COVID-19 cases has remained mostly steady in recent weeks at about 300,000 per day, but experts have warned of a “tripledemic” facing the country and world as COVID-19 lingers, influenza cases rise and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases surge. 

RSV is a common and typically mild virus, but millions of children are encountering it for the first time later in life than is normal because of restrictions put in place amid the pandemic. Children are now widely getting the virus, leading to many children’s hospitals becoming overrun with patients.

Health experts have also warned that the U.S. should expect a worse than normal flu season as this winter will be the first when many have resumed normal activities. Flu rates were historically low throughout the pandemic as people followed health regulations by wearing masks and staying distanced from others. 

CDC data shows the percentage of outpatient visits for respiratory illness this season has significantly outpaced that of any other season since at least 2017-2018.

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