Flu, COVID and RSV all declining now in Georgia

A brutal winter of respiratory illnesses is showing signs of abating. All three major respiratory viruses — flu, COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV — are all trending down in Georgia, according to the latest figures from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The flu revved up unusually early in the season this past fall. RSV took off even before that in the summer months. COVID rose again in December — but never reached the heights of previous winters before showing a downturn recently.

Dr. Angela Highbaugh-Battle, a pediatrician from St. Mary’s who is president of the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said her practice is still seeing high volumes of children sick with generally more mild respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold. But she said she is cautiously optimistic about the dwindling numbers of flu, COVID, and RSV cases.

Despite the declines, it’s still a busy time for doctor’s offices and hospitals and experts say people shouldn’t let their guard down.

“This cold and flu season has been more active than usual so I am hesitant to jump for joy — yet,” said Highbaugh-Battle.

ExploreComplete coverage of COVID-19 in Georgia

She encourages people to be vigilant and practice good hand washing and sneezing or coughing into your elbow — not their hand. Staying home when sick is another key way to stop the spread of viruses, she said.

Here’s a look at the latest trends and numbers from the DPH.

The Flu: The number of patient visits to doctors for flu or flu-like illness tumbled to 2.9% during the week ending Jan. 14, down from 3.7% the previous week and down even more sharply from a month ago, according to the latest report. In metro Atlanta, which according to the state’s surveillance includes Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Gwinnett, Rockdale, and Newton counties, 27 people were hospitalized for the flu for the week ending Jan. 14. That was down from 44 hospitalizations the previous week. Since the flu season began on Oct. 8, 36 people, including one child, have died from the flu in Georgia. Last year at this time, there were 15 flu-related deaths in Georgia.

RSV: This virus had dropped to low levels during the pandemic but returned dramatically last summer, packing pediatric wards in Georgia. The state DPH doesn’t track each RSV case, but based on testing, RSV activity appears to be slowing down in the state. The latest surveillance showed only 2.7% of RSV tests in Georgia testing positive on a PCR molecular test used by doctors, marking a sharp dive from October when over 15% of the RSV tests were positive. RSV can be particularly dangerous among infants and older adults, potentially leading to breathing trouble and complications such as pneumonia.

COVID-19: Cases in Georgia have been steadily declining since late December but are still up from November. The 7-day rolling average of new confirmed cases dropped to 746 down from 876 the previous week. But that’s still up 71% from early November, according to DPH data. Due to the prevalence of at-home COVID tests, which are not reported to health officials, the actual case numbers are probably far higher than those numbers reflect.

Credit: custom

Credit: custom