WORLD US struggles to cope with surge of respiratory illness


US struggles to cope with surge of respiratory illness


19:09, December 17, 2022

People wearing face masks are seen on a street in New York City, US, December 12, 2022. (Photo: CFP)

The United States continues to see a surge in respiratory viruses including COVID-19, flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), which have left hospitals overwhelmed and understaffed to cope with increasing patients.

The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a plan for possible COVID-19 winter surge, encouraging people to use all necessary tools available to keep COVID-19 at bay, including getting vaccinated and boosted, making use of tests and treatments and masking up when necessary.

As a part of its new push, the administration is restarting the free at-home COVID-19 test program, permitting each US household to order up to four free tests this winter.

"This is not one disease in isolation," said White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha, referring to the trio threats of COVID-19, flu, and RSV, a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.

"The stress on hospitals and stress on health care workers is because of all the respiratory pathogens. So we are very aware that this increase that we're seeing in COVID is in that context of one of the worst flu seasons in a decade and RSV that was quite bad," he said.

The respiratory viruses are running rampant among children this year, leading to an unprecedented demand for over-the-counter medications. Kids ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which could alleviate children's symptoms, are in short supply in the country.

Health experts have warned the shortage would not end anytime soon as flu, COVID-19, RSV, and cold cases continue to rise ahead of holiday gatherings.

The country has seen an increase of about 50 percent in weekly child COVID-19 cases in the latest week than the average of the previous eight weeks, according to the latest report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

About 41,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States in the week ending December 8, the highest increase in several months.

Almost 15.1 million children in the country have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic, according to the report. About 127,000 of these cases have been added in the past four weeks.

The country is now averaging about 65,569 new COVID-19 cases, 420 deaths and 4,800 hospitalizations each day, according to the latest data of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts believe the real count of cases are much higher as many were under-reported due to at-home COVID-19 tests.

Public health experts warn that the holidays may speed the already fast-moving pace of infection, driving the demand for hospital beds and medical care ever higher.

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