CDC Issues Warning to Health Systems About Surge in Respiratory Viruses


Nov. 6, 2022 – The CDC issued its highest-level warning to public health officials regarding the surge of respiratory viruses, particularly among children, that are overwhelming some health systems across the nation. 

“We suspect that many children are being exposed to some respiratory viruses now for the first time, having avoided these viruses during the height of the pandemic,” said Jose Romero, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, on a media call Friday. “Currently, the United States is experiencing a resurgence in the circulation of non-COVID 19 respiratory viruses.”

In addition to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the flu, the warning mentioned rhinovirus and enterovirus. These viruses can worsen asthma symptoms and sometimes have neurological effects including limb weakness.

The CDC officially issued the urgent public health alert Friday to health system officials and health care providers using the CDC’s Health Alert Network. This system is reserved for health warnings of the highest and most immediate importance. 

Models continue to predict a surge in COVID-19 infections, but a nationwide dramatic increase has not yet appeared. Some hotspots are emerging, though. Cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are modestly increasing. Some states such as Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah saw a 50% increase in cases during the past two weeks, according to a The New York Times dashboard.

The CDC reported that a second child has died due to RSV. 

“RSV activity continues to increase nationally, but varies regionally,” said Romero, who is a pediatric infectious disease specialist. RSV is increasing in all regions except the Southeast and South Central U.S. 

The flu is continuing its record-breaking early streak of chart-topping case counts and hospitalizations.

Lab-confirmed flu cases have reached 1.6 million this season, according to the CDC. Flu cases, hospitalizations and deaths have doubled in just one week, ABC News reported.

The strain of influenza primarily being reported across the U.S. is A(H3N2), according to the CDC’s weekly influenza update. The flu is hitting the Southeast particularly hard, with 20% of all respiratory specimens tested coming back positive for A(H3N2) influenza. 

In a section of the Midwest that covers Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, the majority of flu cases detected there during the past week were a different strain of the flu called A(H1N1).

Health officials are asking the public to get flu vaccines and COVID-19 boosters to protect themselves and others, and to help avoid overcrowding hospitals.

“First and foremost, vaccination is the best defense in the prevention of influenza and COVID-19,” Romero said. “However, people should also practice everyday preventive measures such as cough hygiene etiquette (that is, covering your coughs and sneezes), staying away from individuals who are ill, and frequent hand washing or using alcohol gels. People may also choose to wear a well-fitting mask as an added precaution.”