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The Flu’s Early-Season Comeback

The latest on vaccine match, case counts, flu admissions to EDs

December 01, 2022

The flu has continued its early-season comeback, as public health leaders in Pennsylvania and around the nation urge people to get vaccinated heading into the winter holidays.

In its latest report, the Pennsylvania Department of Health noted that flu activity is higher this year when compared to the same point in the last five flu seasons. Nationally, flu hospitalizations increased about 30 percent in a week.

“The early-season surge is occurring alongside brisk respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity that has overwhelmed some children's hospitals,” the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) noted in its update this week. “Also, COVID-19 variants continue to shift, with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths showing small rises.”

Here’s what you need to know:

  • In Pennsylvania:  Through November 26, nearly 49,000 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases have been reported in Pennsylvania, and there have been seven confirmed influenza-related deaths.
    • Flu-related illnesses account for more than 4.5 percent of emergency department (ED) visits in the state, a rate that’s higher than usual for this time of year.
  • Vaccine match:  H3N2 makes up the majority (78%) of tested influenza A samples. CIDRAP notes that H3N2 tends to be “tough on seniors and young children” when it’s the dominant strain, but the majority of tested viruses remain similar to the ones targeted in this year’s vaccine.  
  • National outlook:  So far this season, there have been at least 6.2 million cases, 53,000 hospitalizations, and 2,900 deaths from flu.
    • Across the U.S., 35 states are reporting “high” or “very high” levels of influenza-like activity, according to the latest available CDC data.
  • An earlier arrival:  Nationally, the hospitalization rate for this year is higher than the rate observed during this point in every flu season since 2010–2011.
  • The bottom line:  If you’re 6 months or older and haven’t had a flu shot, now is a great time to get vaccinated.

HAP has published a toolkit that highlights the strain the flu, RSV, and other seasonal illnesses are placing on hospital emergency departments and the importance of COVID-19 and flu vaccinations. The communications toolkit includes key messages, social media assets, and other resources and is available online.

You can make an appointment to receive your COVID-19 vaccine online.