Georgia’s “tripledemic” — the simultaneous outbreaks of flu, COVID, and respiratory synctical virus (RSV) — is on the decline, state epidemiologist Cherie Drenzek said Wednesday.
The flu season started early and peaked in October both nationally and in Georgia, Drenzek told members of the Georgia Board of Public Health during its first meeting since November. Hospitalizations are down by about 60% since last week in metro Atlanta, the sole region where DPH tracks the data.
Despite the decline in the amount of flu activity, severe outcomes including death are higher nationally than in past years. So far this flu season, 97 children have died from the flu nationwide, including six just this past week. Drenzek said older adults and young children are the most likely to experience severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death.
The pattern for RSV, which typically causes cold-like symptoms but can be serious in young children, has been similar to the pattern for flu. The RSV season began early and peaked in October, Drenzek said.
There is also good news when it comes to COVID-19. The level of hospitalizations for elderly Georgians is about one-fifth of what it was at this time last year, Drenzek said. Deaths have also decreased.
The decline in severe outcomes indicates COVID vaccines and boosters are working, Drenzek said. Though the risk has decreased, many are still vulnerable to COVID, with more than 3,000 people still dying of COVID each week in the United States.
“Flu vaccine and bivalent [COVID] boosters remain critical for those at risk,” Drenzek said.
In legislative news, the state Department of Public Health is supporting a bill before the General Assembly that would prohibit vaping in any designated smoke-free area, said Megan Andrews, the agency’s assistant commissioner for policy. The goal is to bring vaping rules on par with other smoking rules.
The Georgia Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee has approved the bill. The full Senate is expected to vote on it Wednesday.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.