Flu hospitalizations at highest level in a decade, health officials say
Hospitalizations for influenza have reached a decade-long high in the United States, health authorities revealed this week, a possible indication that common respiratory viruses are surging again after over two years of relative placidity amid sheltering orders during the COVID pandemic.
Dawn O’Connell, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, warned at a media briefing on Friday that hospitals in the U.S. could "face some challenges this winter" due to "increased RSV infections, a rising number of flu cases and the ongoing burden of COVID-19."
Lynnette Brammer, the team lead of domestic influenza surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that "right now … we are seeing an early season."
"As far as how severe the season will be, we’re just going to have to wait and follow the season," she said.
"But right now we’re not seeing anything that would lead us to believe that it is more severe. It’s just early right now."
Many were concerned about anti-body dependent enhancement (ADE) when the COVID vaccines were released:
"The simple definition of ADE is "raising antibodies that don't protect, but actually make a viral infection even worse". And obviously, that's the opposite of what you want."
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The vaccine, called Dengvaxia, is aimed at helping children in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories where dengue is a problem.
But this vaccine has a dark — and deadly — history. One that has led to criminal charges in the Philippines, sparked national panic and fueled a massive measles outbreak that has already killed more than 355 people.
But in the end, estimates are that more than 100,000 Philippine children received a vaccine that health officials say increased their risk of a severe and sometimes deadly condition.
For some children, the vaccine didn't seem to work. In fact, Halstead says, it appeared to be harmful. When those kids caught dengue after being vaccinated, the vaccine appeared to worsen the disease in some instances. Specifically, for children who had never been exposed to dengue, the vaccine seemed to increase the risk of a deadly complication called plasma leakage syndrome, in which blood vessels start to leak the yellow fluid of the blood.
"Here's the problem. For children who have already been exposed to dengue, the vaccine is safe and works pretty well. But there is an unusual thing about the dengue virus. The second infection can be a lot worse than the first. So for kids who have never had the disease, the vaccine acts as the first exposure. So if they are exposed to dengue later on, they're at a higher chance of having this severe reaction."