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Influenza Surge Amidst COVID-19: Impacts on North Carolina Healthcare

The latest data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has reported a disconcerting surge in flu deaths across the state, including the tragic loss of two children. Amidst the customary annual flu cycle, health systems across the state are now grappling with a significant increase in various respiratory viruses. This acute spike follows a particularly challenging fall season characterized by a severe outbreak of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

Hospitals within the Triangle, a significant health cluster encompassing WakeMed, UNC Health, and Duke, reported that the number of RSV cases has begun to decline. Dr. Becky Smith, who spearheads infection prevention and epidemiology at Duke Hospital, confirmed this trend, noting a simultaneous increase in COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19 figures from last week have soared to over 600 across Duke Hospital, Duke Regional, and Duke Raleigh, a notable leap from approximately 520 in the previous week. WakeMed reports a similar trend with 538 positive COVID-19 tests and 90 subsequent hospital admissions within the first week of January. Concurrently, they also reported over 670 positive flu tests leading to 29 hospitalizations.

Last week, Duke hospitals recorded over 170 flu cases. Despite this surge, Dr. Smith remains optimistic, expecting influenza to reach its peak soon. However, she cautions that additional peaks may be on the horizon, demonstrating a typical flu progression trajectory. Despite handling an influx of cases, hospitals within the Triangle report that they are currently managing the situation without the need for patient diversion.

Healthcare professionals also underscore that the spread of flu and COVID-19 has been heavily influenced by recent holiday gatherings and the resumption of schools. The increasing prevalence of a COVID-19 sub-variant, JN.1, which the CDC identifies as a leading cause of new COVID cases, has compounded concerns.

Healthcare professionals and experts urge the public to remain vigilant. Measures recommended include getting vaccinated for both the flu and COVID-19; practicing hand washing, mask-wearing, and enhanced ventilation. As the battle against these dual outbreaks continues, implementing these preventative steps can have a significant impact on mitigating the spread.


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