Do you remember the fear of flu attacks during the holidays? Didn’t happen, says CDC

Ahead of the holiday season, there was fear in certain medical circles that holiday gatherings among millions upon millions of families across America would spark a dangerous wave of respiratory illness.

Now new data from the US government suggests that was not the case.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that doctor’s office visits for flu-like illnesses fell for the sixth straight week.

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“Seasonal flu activity continues but is declining in most areas,” the CDC wrote on its website.

The CDC also said reports of RSV, a common cause of cold symptoms that can be serious for infants and the elderly, are also down.

Doctors worried ahead of the holiday season that winter gatherings could spark a wave of flu, RSV and COVID.

Doctors worried ahead of the holiday season that winter gatherings could spark a wave of flu, RSV and COVID.
(iStock)

In the fall, as flu and RSV cases surged and caused overcrowding in pediatric emergency rooms, some doctors feared that winter could trigger a so-called tripledemic of flu, RSV, and COVID-19.

They worried that holiday gatherings might be the spark. But apparently that didn’t happen.

RSV hospitalizations have fallen since November — and so have flu hospitalizations.

“Right now everything is going downhill,” said Lynnette Brammer of the CDC.

According to the Associated Press, she leads the U.S. government agency’s flu search.

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RSV hospitalizations have fallen since November — and so have flu hospitalizations.

Dr. Marc Siegel, a Fox News medical officer, told Fox News Digital on Saturday morning that “there was an immune pause recently” for a variety of reasons, including Australia’s recent “fierce lockdowns.”

All this does not mean that some people did not get sick. Many families reported that at least one or more of their members had something to do with them during the holidays after group gatherings.

Some doctors say patient traffic is currently on the decline, while some are still wondering and concerned about what COVID-19 omicron subvariants might bring.

Some doctors say patient traffic is currently on the decline, while some are still wondering and concerned about what COVID-19 omicron subvariants might bring.
(iStock)

The situation is uneven across the country, the Associated Press reported — with some areas having more disease than others.

But some doctors say patient traffic is declining.

“It’s really eased up considerably,” Dr. Ethan Wiener, a pediatric emergency room physician at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone in New York City, told the AP.

A doctor said there was an increase in COVID-19 traffic at St. Louis Children’s in December. But the situation was not like it was a year ago, he said.

Dr. Jason Newland, a pediatric infectious disease physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri, also told the outlet that “it’s slowed down tremendously.”

Newland said he wasn’t surprised that flu and RSV continued to drop in recent weeks, but added: “The question is what was COVID going to do?”

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 increased through December, including the week after Christmas, the CDC said.

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One set of CDC data appears to show they began falling after New Year’s, though an agency spokeswoman noted that another count indicates an increase from last week.

Due to reporting delays, it could be several weeks before CDC can be sure that COVID-19 hospitalizations really start to drop, Newland told the AP.

A patient talks to a doctor in the examination room.  It makes sense that respiratory infections can recur during holiday travel and gatherings — and it's not clear exactly why that hasn't happened, health professionals say.

A patient talks to a doctor in the examination room. It makes sense that respiratory infections can recur during holiday travel and gatherings — and it’s not clear exactly why that hasn’t happened, health professionals say.
(iStock)

He also said there was an increase in COVID-19 traffic at St. Louis Children’s in December.

But he noted that the situation was nothing like it was a year ago, when the then-new Omicron variant sparked the largest national wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

“That was the worst,” he said.

Last week, Dr. Siegel also told Fox News Digital that the relatively new COVID-19 omicron subvariant XBB.1.5 “is the most easily transmissible sub-variant to date.”

He said that “not only does it bind well to cells, but it is also the most immuno-evasive.” Siegel is a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

The CDC recently downgraded its estimate of the amount of XBB.1.5 circulating in the US

The sub-variant – called “Kraken” by some – is also spreading around the world.

World Health Organization chief technical officer Maria Van Kerkhove, Ph.D, said XBB.1.5 is “the most transmissible subvariant detected to date,” WebMD reported.

While this subvariant continues to spread at a faster rate than other versions of COVID-19, the CDC recently downgraded its estimate of how much XBB.1.5 is circulating in the US.

Why RSV and flu peaks probably faded

The fall RSV and flu wave were felt most acutely in children’s health centers.

Wiener said traffic in the children’s emergency department in Hassenfeld was 50% above normal levels in October, November and December — “the highest volumes ever” for that time of year, he said, according to the AP.

Experts said it is always possible that a second wave of disease is ahead.

Experts said it is always possible that a second wave of disease is ahead.
(iStock)

The RSV and flu spikes probably subsided because so many members of the vulnerable population were infected “and it just burned itself out,” he said.

It makes sense that respiratory infections can recur during holiday travel and gatherings — and it’s not clear exactly why that hasn’t happened, Brammer said.

That said, flu season isn’t over yet, the AP noted.

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Thirty-six states still report high or very high levels of flu activity, it noted. And it’s always possible that a second wave of disease is ahead, experts said.

Still, said Dr. Siegel: “I think we’re past the worst” in terms of flu in the United States — though he said flu season usually peaks in January.

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The CDC continues to recommend that everyone “six months and older” get the flu vaccine.

“An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu. Vaccination helps prevent infection and can also prevent serious consequences in people who are vaccinated but still get the flu,” the CDC says on its website.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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