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Thursday Thunder: Respiratory Diseases Are Declining in the US + Avian Flu in Humans in Ecuador


As we’ve seen in previous traveler’s reports, with the decline of the COVID pandemic other viruses got stronger. Thus, a variety of respiratory diseases have been the focus of the healthcare system over the past few months.

Today, we’ll cover the US situation with respiratory diseases, including COVID, RSV, and flu. Plus, we’ll talk about the first case of Avian flu in humans in Ecuador.

Let’s get started

Respiratory Diseases Trending Down in the US

The flu season started earlier than normal in the US this year. And we all know why by now, there was a lack of exposure to the virus during the last three pandemic years.

On top of that, a new Omicron subvariant (also known as the Kraken Strain) appeared in the country while RSV hospitalizations also increased.

But luckily, after peaking around the holiday season, infections of all three respiratory viruses are now declining simultaneously.

According to CDC data:

  • RSV weekly hospitalizations have dropped to about a fifth of their number two months ago
  • Flu hospitalizations are now about a quarter of what they were at their peak, a month and a half ago.
  • 6% of the population is living in a “high” COVID-19 county. Two weeks ago, that number was 22%.

However, the experts agree that this decline doesn’t mean that all risks are gone. RSV, flu, and COVID may peak again. To sustain this declining trend, it is essential that people keep up with their vaccination schedules: The more people take their vaccines, the less likely it is that these respiratory diseases will come back soon.

What’s more: when it comes to COVID, vaccine boosters are proving to cut the risk of infection by half (even for the latest Omicron subvariant).

The future of COVID in the US

Finally, another hopeful health trend in the US has to do with the COVID-19 vaccine.

The FDA is holding meetings with independent experts to discuss the possibility of simplifying the vaccination schedule. In the proposed plan, people would only need to take a yearly booster vaccine, as they would for influenza.

Ecuador News: Avian Flu in Humans

Two weeks ago in Ecuador, an avian influenza human case was reported. This is the first reported case in all of Latin America and the Caribbean region.

This disease is caused by the A(H5) virus and presents similar symptoms to human influenza. Avian flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Aching muscles
  • Sore throat
  • Eye infections
  • Serious respiratory infections including pneumonia

Usually, this type of infection results either from direct or indirect exposure to:

  • Infected poultry (live or dead)
  • Contaminated environments

According to the CDC, the spread of avian influenza among humans is very rare. Hence, it doesn’t seem like an avian flu outbreak could happen so far.

In Ecuador, the public health measures taken include:

  • Researching and following the case closely
  • Following up on people presenting symptoms after exposure to poultry
  • Keeping the seasonal influenza vaccination in risk groups ongoing

Key Takeaways

A few months ago, the US was experiencing the highest record of respiratory disease contagion. Now, these numbers are declining.

It’s clear that we’re facing hopeful times for safe travel. However, new diseases and strains can develop at any time, and they can catch you off guard. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to do some research before traveling.

We can help keep the health system worldwide under control by getting tested. Discover COVID testing centers near you with our international directory.

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