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Worst flu season in decades overcrowding emergency rooms

Worst flu season in a decade hits our region
Worst flu season in a decade hits our region 02:42

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The worst flu season in a decade continues with even more people getting sick. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that 13 million Americans have been infected with influenza since October.

Other respiratory illnesses are also climbing, the CDC said.

Hospitals are filling up and wait times in emergency departments are lasting hours. The "tripledemic" of the flu, RSV and COVID-19 is growing and health officials say the Christmas season could bring a flood of even more illnesses.

"We're seeing a lot of patients that are coming in with flu-like illnesses," Dr. Thomas Brabson, the chair of emergency services for AtlantiCare, said.

Hospitals are slammed with sick people.

The CDC map shows influenza cases in New Jersey are among the highest in the country.


With more than 44,000 lab-confirmed cases since October, doctors say the real numbers are much higher because most people don't get tested.

"People are getting out and about a lot more," Brabson said, "and I think people are letting their guard down."

There's also a growing number of children being hospitalized with the respiratory illness RSV.

"This past year has been unlike any other years in the past," Dr. Laura Pusley said.

RSV is surging along with the flu and COVID-19 infections.

The CDC COVID-19 community transmission map is once again red around the tri-state region, meaning the virus is spreading widely.

In the past two weeks, COVID-19 cases in New Jersey are up 50%, up 39% in Pennsylvania and 65% in Delaware.


"There are some severe cases," Brabson said. "Usually, the severe cases are in people who have preexisting, underlying diseases."

Doctors say all three of the viral infections sweeping the country could be slowed by mask-wearing and being up to day with vaccinations.

But so far, fewer than 13% of Americans have received their updated COVID-19 boosters.

"It tells me that people are not getting the message," Dr. Douglas Chiriboga said.

Doctors say people should only go to emergency departments for trouble breathing and other serious conditions because overcrowding is becoming overwhelming in some places.

If it's just a fever and congestion, it's better to call your doctor and stay home.

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