The novel coronavirus isn’t the only threat Americans are facing this spring.
The Washington Times reported last week that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the percentage of deaths due to influenza and pneumonia” in the U.S. this season “has surged above ‘the epidemic threshold.'”
One season, two epidemics
The CDC made its findings known in its latest “Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report,” where it noted that “the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza” has reached 8.2% — just above the “epidemic threshold,” which sits just over 7%.
In short, this means that between the flu and COVID-19, America is currently battling two epidemics.
“CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 39 million flu illnesses, 400,000 hospitalizations, and 24,000 deaths from flu,” a bulletin from the agency reads. And while those most at risk from the coronavirus are older adults, according to the CDC, this year’s flu is apparently targeting children.
The CDC reports: “162 influenza-associated deaths in children have been reported so far this season. This number is higher than recorded at the same time in every season since reporting began in 2004-05, except for the 2009 pandemic [of H1N1].”
As of Sunday morning, the United States had more than 330,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and over 9,400 deaths, according to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University. Globally, more than 1.2 million have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and nearly 70,000 have died — and those numbers are expected to rise.
In the meantime, some have questioned whether the two epidemics outlined by the CDC are related — and according to the agency, that’s likely the case.
“While the percent of all deaths due to [pneumonia and influenza] has increased during weeks 9-12 (7.4-8.2%), the percent of all deaths with influenza listed as a cause have decreased (from 1.0% to 0.8%) over this same time period,” the CDC noted in its report. “The increase in pneumonia deaths during this time period are likely associated with COVID-19 rather than influenza.”
Writing last Monday, Washington Times author Cheryl Chumley argued that this is likely causing confusion and inaccuracies in data released about the coronavirus pandemic — inaccuracies that those in the media may be seeking to capitalize on.
“[T]he truth is, we really don’t know — we really don’t know if all those who go to the hospital actually test positive for coronavirus,” Chumley wrote. “All we know is that people, concerned over their symptoms — perhaps panicked by what they’ve watched on news and heard on the streets about coronavirus symptoms — have gone to hospitals in droves with worries about the illness. And doctors and nurses and staffers responding to the sheer numbers of patients are feeling overwhelmed.”
She went on to point out that as flu and pneumonia deaths surpass the “epidemic threshold,” more than 150 “kids have died from the flu this season so far… [A]nd none of that makes the evening news,” she lamented.