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Flu is continuing to spread rapidly in Arizona

By: - December 14, 2022 4:33 pm

Lalain Reyeg administers a COVID-19 booster vaccine and an influenza vaccine to Army veteran Gary Nasakaitis at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital on Sept. 24, 2021, in Hines, Illinois. Photo by Scott Olson | Getty Images

The flu in Arizona is continuing to spread at a historically rapid rate as cases nationally continue to rise alongside COVID-19 ahead of the holidays, outpacing flu seasons from decades prior. 

The most recent report on the flu in the state by the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 4,792 laboratory confirmed cases last week, a 42% increase from the previous week and an increase of more than 2,000% compared to this time last year.   

Currently, Arizona and the rest of the nation is experiencing a surge in influenza, COVID-19 and RSV. This flu season in Arizona is much worse than the past two flu seasons, which were abnormally low, and nationally there have been more flu hospitalizations this past week than any other flu season since 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More than 12,000 laboratory confirmed cases have been reported to the state of the very contagious virus

Data from ADHS shows that the majority of cases are contained within the age brackets of 5-to-18 years of age and 19-to-49 years of age. Approximately 34% of all cases reported this season have been in people aged 5-to-18 and 31% have been in people aged 19-to-49 years old, the lion’s share of cases. 

The flu is a complicated virus, as well, with many variations that can affect people in a number of ways. Lately, there has been increased attention to the highly transmissible animal variations of the flu that have begun to pop up and that some fear could spread to humans. No such cases have occurred in the state. 

Of the flu variants, the basic Influenza A is the most common in the state, with the B and U types only making up 3% and 2% of cases so far this season, respectively. Of the Influenza A cases, a couple hundred of them are the H3 strain, which gained prominence in the early 2000s and came from Southeast Asia. 

The flu is already proving deadly for the youngest victims. Approximately 2,404 cases of the flu have been reported in the state in Arizonans aged 0-to-4 and since the start of the season. Nationally, there have been 21 pediatric deaths attributed to the flu, seven of them this week alone. 

During the week of Nov. 26, the CDC reported more than 34,000 positive flu tests from labs across the United States. That is more positive flu tests reported in a single week in a flu season than any other season going back as far back as 1997, according to CDC records. 

RSV, an upper respiratory virus that can sometimes be confused with the common cold, is also on the rise from previous seasons. In the past week, there were 1,503 confirmed cases which is where cases have been steadily remaining the past three weeks. 

According to the CDC, Arizona has high flu and RSV activity, slightly less than the “very high” designation. During the week ending Nov. 19, one in every 10 deaths nationally could be attributed to either pneumonia, the flu or COVID-19

Arizona hospitals are still strained financially due in large to workforce shortages, inflation and supply chain shortages. Getting vaccinated for both the flu and COVID can greatly reduce the severity of both illnesses if you were to come down with them and reduce strain on health care providers, still impacted by the pandemic and other issues. Approximately 70% of Arizona’s emergency department beds are currently in use as well. 

Healthcare officials have been urging those who have not gotten vaccinated for the flu to do so ahead of the holidays and to get boosted while they’re at it. 

Anyone looking for more information on testing can find it at azhealth.gov/Testing

Anyone looking for more information on where to get a vaccine can find it at azhealth.gov/findvaccine


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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.