In the United States, a variety of respiratory viruses circulate, causing infections across the country — influenza, rhinovirus (one cause of the “common cold”), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), respiratory adenovirus, to name a few — and now, the novel coronavirus.
While flu infection and death rates can vary dramatically from one year to the next depending on the dominant strain, flu-like illnesses tend to be most common during the fall and winter. This year, it remains to be seen if SARS-CoV2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 and that has devastated the U.S. since spring — will also peak during the flu season.
To help answer this question and identify where in the United States there may be the highest likelihood of a convergence of severe COVID-19 and flu cases, 24/7 Wall St. constructed an index of the following measures:
1) Flu vaccination rates during recent flu seasons.
2) Hospital visits for flu-like illnesses during recent flu seasons.
3) Average COVID-19 cases per day from Sept. 28, 2020 to Oct. 4, 2020.
4) Average projected COVID-19 hospital beds that will be needed this fall and winter as a percentage of total bed capacity.
States with high vaccinations rates, low flu hospitalization rates, low COVID-19 cases per day, and low projected hospital beds needed were deemed to have a better chance to weather the upcoming flu season.
Getting a flu vaccine may be more important this year than ever before amid the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 42% of adults have been vaccinated against the flu every year since the 2010-2011 season. With one exception, South Dakota, most adults in every state do not get a flu vaccine.
Vaccination rates for children are higher, with an average of 57.3% of 6 month to 17 year olds receiving flu vaccinations in an average year.
Last year’s flu season started off considerably worse than usual and ended April 4 as one of the worst in a decade. Preliminary data show that as many as 56 million illnesses, 18 million to 26 million doctor visits, 740,000 hospitalizations, and 62,000 deaths were associated with influenza across the United States.
An estimated 35.5 million illnesses, 16.5 million doctor visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths were associated with influenza in the United States during the 2018-2019 flu season. Deaths were lower than during the two preceding flu seasons, but worse than in 2015-2016, when relatively few 22,705 flu-related deaths were reported. COVID-19 cases will no doubt add to the load of the health care system — the question is by how much.
With more than 7.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, more than 210,000 related deaths have been documented in the U.S. since March. Based on projections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE), there will be an average of 1,641 COVID-19 deaths every day during the fall and winter of this year.