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Flu, RSV cases decline as COVID remains steady

The winter yuckies are circulating in Minnesota but some of these viruses' case numbers are going down.

MINNEAPOLIS — At Allina Health's Uptown Clinic, infectious diseases physician Dr. Frank Rhame says patients are visiting for a mixture of reasons, depending on their age and health.

"Right now, it's almost even between influenza, RSV, and COVID," Rhame said. "Most of the COVID patients we see are older because they're the ones who get sickest. The RSVs are at the extremes, young and old … For influenza, we all see that."

While strep throat cases appear to be up in Minnesota, Rahme says flu cases have dropped over the last couple of weeks. It comes after the flu had an unusually early start this year, coming about two months early.

"It went as high as the worst year and now it seems to be going back down," Rahme said.

Melissa McMahon is a senior epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health working in influenza surveillance. She confirms flu cases are down but warns the future is unpredictable.

"Whether or not we'll see another increase in the coming weeks is too soon to say," McMahon said.

Meanwhile, MDH epidemiologist Erica Mumm specializes in RSV, which causes cold or flu-like symptoms and can lead to severe disease such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia. Mumm says RSV cases are also going down across the seven-county metro area.

"We were seeing hospitalizations up to about 180 per week as of about a month ago but now we're seeing decrease in numbers now below 100 and looking like they're hopefully going below that or at least hovering around that normal 60 to 70 pre-pandemic peak levels," Mumm said. 

As for COVID, MDH says cases remain steady.

"COVID is still present," McMahon said. "Right now we're at what we're describing as a high plateau."

Rahme is urging people to get the bivalent booster dose, which targets two COVID variants.

"The holiday season is one of the more challenging ones than just gathering because it's cross-generational gathering," he said. "The kids that are in school are definitely getting it and you've got the grandparents who are visiting. So when it's cross-generational like that, it's particularly important to not get it yourself and that means, in my opinion, masking, taking a test before you get together, and getting the appropriate boosters."

MDH also recommends getting a flu shot and says it's not too late to get one, even if you've already had the flu this year. The vaccine protects against four strains of influenza and it's possible to get more than one in a year.

Minnesota's flu classification is now "moderate" after being "high" for most of December. According to this week's MDH report, hospitalizations totaled 154 compared to 289 in the last report. The report also shows nine new flu-related deaths last week. None are pediatric cases.

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