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Flu, COVID-19 cases climbing across the US

CBS Philadelphia 12/5/2022 Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- New warnings from federal health officials -- flu cases are the highest they've been in a decade and COVID-19 is increasing too. Part of this is related to a post-Thanksgiving surge of infections and it has doctors worried about the rest of the holiday season. 

Doctors' offices and hospital emergency departments are bombarded with sick people. Health officials say the surge is happening in part because more people aren't wearing masks and vaccination rates are not robust.

It's been a brutal week fo the Kao family, struggling with a nasty virus like millions of Americans. 

"It's been hectic," father Brendan Kao said. 

This year's respiratory virus season has seen a perfect storm of RSV, flu and COVID-19 all circulating. 

The flu is especially bad now. Since October, about 8.7 million people have been ill, 78,000 hospitalized and 4,500 have died from the flu, including 14 children. 

"Hospitalizations for flu continue to be the highest we have seen at this time of year in a decade," CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. 

Influenza in Pennsylvania is the highest its been in eight years. The CDC flu map shows cases are high or very high all over the Tri-State region. 

"What's concerning to us, is we're seeing a steep increase in the number of infectious respiratory viruses rather a lot earlier than I think we would normally see in a given year," Dr. Claiborne Childs said. 

Dr. Claiborne Childs, with Main Line Health's Riddle Hospital, says COVID-19 is also making a comeback. 

Cases are up all over the region. In Delaware, COVID-19 infections have jumped 39% over the past two weeks. Part of the expected post-Thanksgiving surge of respiratory infections. 

" I think it's hard to tell. You know, there's a good chance that as people are gathering and are unmasked, that does increase the risk for respiratory viruses to be transmitted between individuals," Childs said. 

Vaccinations are critical now, for flu and COVID-19 boosters. 

Even if you've already been infected, it's not too late. 

"Both vaccines are very important in making it less likely to get it. And even more important, making it less likely that we'll get very sick if we do get the virus," Infectious disease specialist Dr. Dan Sullivan said. 

You can get a flu and COVID-19 shot at the same time. It takes about two weeks for the vaccinations to become effective. The CDC says people should wear masks inside when traveling this holiday season.

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