Deaths attributed to COVID-19 soar throughout the country as Influenza cases remain unusually low for this time of year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
In the CDC’s weekly FluView report, the national public health agency describes how all strains of lab-confirm influenza are low to minimal in every part of the country. However, deaths due to pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19 have increased during October and through mid-November. About 13% of the deaths during the week ending with November 28, were due to pneumonia, influenza, and COVID-19 (PIC). This percentage is above the epidemic threshold of 6.4% for this time of the year, according to the CDC report.
Among the 2,094 PIC deaths reported during the last week of November, 1,397 had COVID-19 listed as an underlying or contributing cause of death on the death certificate while three listed influenza. According to the CDC report, this indicates that the current increase in PIC mortality is largely due to COVID-19.
Both COVID-19-associated hospitalizations and mortality for the most recent weeks are expected to increase as more data is made available.
The low number of flu cases, the CDC says, may be inaccurate due to behavior changes during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many healthcare providers are urging their patients to stay home, if possible, when experiencing flu-like symptoms. These potential changes in healthcare-seeking behavior, the CDC suggests, may be impacting the reported number of influenza cases. Only 1.6% of visits to healthcare providers during this past week were attributed to influenza-like illnesses. Flu-related hospitalization data for the current season is not yet available and there are no cases of flu-related pediatric mortality.
During the most recently reported week, healthcare providers tested 17,104 patients for influenza, but just 17 or 0.1% of those specimens came back positive for the flu virus. So far during this season, 195,300 specimens have been tested for flu and only 0.2% of those were positive. The majority of pneumonia deaths at this time are attributed to COVID-19, according to the CDC’s report.