Q&A of the Day – Why Are So Many People Getting Sick?
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Today’s Entry: Brian- I have a topic I’d like you to look into. I’ve been a nurse for over twenty years and have never seen so many people sick at the same time as what I’m seeing right now. The peak of the pandemic with COVID was much more stressful, with more people experiencing severe symptoms, but it was strictly COVID we were dealing with. Now, it’s a whole host of viruses.
Bottom Line: It’s not your imagination that more sickness, more viruses are making their way around the country and our state than usual. Especially for this stage of flu season. Based on the National Insititute's of Health and data from the CDC there are currently a big three in terms of viruses on rise. First, there’s COVID-19. Over two and a half years since the onset of the pandemic, the question most commonly isn’t whether you’ve had COVID, but how many times. With vaccines effectively retaining no proven efficacy at prevention against the current strains of the virus, there are no amount of boosters that will keep people from contracting the virus if they come across it. The only question comes down to the severity of symptoms. Speaking of which, since the information flow regarding efficacy of COVID vaccines has become especially light – aside from the drumbeat of simply obtaining more of them – they're not even holding up well at preventing serious symptoms among the most vulnerable. According to the most recent CDC study, posted in late October:
- 2 doses of monovalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccine were 36% effective against COVID-19–associated hospitalization during a period of Omicron variant predominance.
Again, that’s not 36% efficacy at prevention, but 36% efficacy against hospitalizations. The point is, if you’re exposed to COVID there’s a good chance you’ll contract it unless you’ve already had the current strain and built immunity against it. As the flu season is once again upon us and with that reality in place, COVID cases are once again on the rise. And while the overall number of current documented cases remains lower than spikes we’ve seen in Florida, most recently with around 2,000 daily cases, we are seeing the spread of COVID 33% higher than at this time a year ago – likely the result of the lost vaccination prevention over this time a year ago. Additionally, there have always been an unquantified number of people who’ve had the virus but were never diagnosed because symptoms weren’t severe. With that increasingly the case with subsequent strains it’s likely that there are far more people with the ‘vid that aren’t officially detected. And that takes us to the traditional flu.
The traditional flu is worse than it’s ever been in Florida this early in the season. According to the CDC’s flu map the A(H3) influenza strain is running rampant across the country, with the spread of the traditional flu as significant as we’d typically see in January during pre-COVID times. The CDC’s current weekly flu tracking and reporting system has been in place since 2008. Until this year there had never been a time in which we reached December with anything higher than a “low” level of flu activity in Florida. In all but a couple of those years' activity has been “minimal”, however this year it’s already “high” and increasing with five monitored outbreaks across the state. And the outlook going forward isn’t any better because all states bordering ours have higher levels of flu than we do along with several states across the country registering “very high” levels of flu (the highest on the scale). And...Florida’s the top destination for travel in December according to Trip Advisor – which is another dynamic feeding our high levels of overall sickness right now. Florida has experienced record levels of tourism all throughout this year and there’s no end in sight. That’s a contributing factor to what we’re seeing for sure. But what we’re also seeing, that may be a contributing factor in the increased case load generally is a lower level of acceptance for flu shots. I’d hypothesized that the government’s loss of trust related to the efficacy of COVID vaccines would lead to a lower acceptance rate of all vaccinations going forward. While that still remains to be seen, flu vaccination rates are down from pre-pandemic levels and fewer than half of adults in a recent study said they’re open to getting one this season.
And then there’s RSV. The Respiratory Syncytial Virus is also nothing new. It’s been around since at least 1956. What is new is the level of spread, especially among children. The CDC doesn’t track RSV so there’s no way to really know what’s happening, however an October report said RSV cases were rising at an “unprecedented rate” and in some cases overwhelming children’s hospitals. It hasn’t slowed down over the past month plus. So why is that one suddenly spiking to historic levels too? At this point there’s only speculation but I’m willing to wade into it with a hypothesis. For effectively two years many people of all ages were separated from one another. Some due to lockdowns, others due to personal preference. During that time natural immunities which would have been built up by the regular contact in society with various contagions wasn’t happening. But now it is everywhere but in Chinese lockdown zones and more people of all ages are susceptible to more viruses than they’d typically have been. Again, that’s my theory but I also think it’s one that’s on solid ground. If so, it’d be but one more negative byproduct of COVID lockdowns and government fear mongering.