Breaking News
More () »

'They didn't have the exposure': Flu cases on the rise across the DMV

The entire DMV is in the highest category compared with states across the country, with Maryland one level lower than D.C. and Virginia.

D.C., Virginia and Maryland are all facing high levels of respiratory illness, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map that tracks health care visits for illnesses that includes fever, plus a cough or sore throat.

Maryland is the lowest of the three, in the medium level of the "very high" section. Virginia and D.C. are one above, at the highest level of the highest section, as of Nov. 12.

The map uses the proportion of outpatient visits to health care providers for influenza-like illnesses to measure the activity within each area.

However, the map does not measure the extent of the geographic spread of flu within the area. This is notable, as a major outbreak in a city alone could drive the entire state to be categorized in a high-level category.

WUSA9 has reported on the current situation across the DMV, as beds at many local hospitals are at or near capacity, according to our Verify Team.

“Around one to two weeks ago, we hit a peak that was higher than the peak of patients that we saw at the peak of COVID,” Dr. Sam Elgawly of Inova Health System explained. "Right now, this is all just non-COVID-type patients. I do expect (through the winter) we're going to be in this constant kind of bed crunch type situation." 

Nationwide, almost 79% of the country’s inpatient beds are full and 75% of ICU beds are in use.

In Maryland, it's the direst, with 100% of inpatient beds in use, and 70% of the ICU full. That's up from 81% and 68% on Tuesday.

In the District, nearly 84% of inpatient beds are in use as well as 80% of the ICU beds.

As for Virginia, patients are in three out of four hospital beds. 

According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association  this year's flu season is already showing early, concerning signs that it may be worse than in recent years. 

"What we're saying right now is that emergency department urgent care clinic visits involving patient diagnosis of RSV have quadrupled since September and remain significantly elevated," said Julian Walker. Walker is the Vice President of Communications for Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.

The Virginia Department of Health says more than 9,000 influenza infections have been reported so far this year. It's a big jump, compared to the 5,071 cases reported during the 2021-2022 flu season. 

Walker told WUSA9 "what you have happening is what seems like early onset or early surge of cold and flu and RSV season combined with lower vaccination rates and then also combined with another factor we're hearing from clinical leaders which is that because we're coming off of a pandemic."

He says the fact that people were more isolated, children who might have been exposed to these kinds of RSV and flu-like illnesses may not have been.

"They didn't have that exposure and so now that they're in maybe an elementary school setting and they're a few years older they're now getting exposed because they're around more children," Walker said. "They're getting exposed perhaps for the first time, so their body isn't as accustomed to that might not have developed any immunities or the defense mechanism to fight back against the virus that they might otherwise have because perhaps this is their first exposure."

This is on top of COVID-19 still being a significant concern. Walker told WUSA9 there were 468 patients in hospitals across Virginia receiving care for COVID-19 on Monday.

He said it's not cause for alarm but is a reminder that COVID-19 is still present and still a risk, even though it's not a risk on the scale we saw during the pandemic.

With the holidays around the corner, health experts recommend you get a flu shot as soon as possible. They also recommend getting vaccinated for COVID-19

Find out where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster in your community by clicking here or call (877) VAX-IN-VA or (877) 829-4682.

Some other tips from the Virginia Health Department:

•    Parents of sick children are encouraged to keep them home from school and other activities to help limit the spread of infection. Parents with sick children are also advised to initially contact a pediatrician or family physician for medical guidance unless your child is in medical distress, in which case seeking hospital care may be warranted. Taking this approach helps ensure that hospital beds and emergency departments are open and available to patients with critical medical needs.

•    Adults who become ill are also encouraged to stay home to limit the risk of spreading illness and to contact their healthcare provider for guidance on the appropriate course of treatment depending on the severity of symptoms and other risk factors.

•    Individuals with symptoms, or those who test positive, are encouraged to contact their healthcare providers to determine the treatment option that is right for them. This is especially true for high-risk individuals. Because treatment is often most effective when taken within five days of the onset of symptoms, people are advised not to delay seeking medical advice and starting prescribed treatment. It is also important to remember that prescriptions such as antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections are typically not appropriate or indicated for treating viral infections like flu and RSV.

•    As a routine safety behavior, Virginians are encouraged to wash their hands often with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, to avoid touching their faces with unwashed hands, to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, to limit the time children spend in large group settings with other contagious individuals when possible, and to get tested if they believe they have been exposed to illness.

READ MORE: Rising respiratory illnesses have local hospitals warning of a 'bed crisis'

Areas across the country seeing the most minimal levels of respiratory illness as of Nov. 12 include the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, New Hampshire, Michigan, Wyoming, South Dakota and Alaska.

WUSA9 is now on Roku and Amazon Fire TVs. Download the apps today for live newscasts and video on demand.

Download the WUSA9 app to get breaking news, weather and important stories at your fingertips.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.
Sign up for the Capitol Breach email newsletter, delivering the latest breaking news and a roundup of the investigation into the Capitol Riots on January 6, 2021.

Before You Leave, Check This Out