11 States That Are Experiencing High-Level Exposure to Viruses, According to the CDC

By: Georgia McKoy | Published: Jan 08, 2024

As winter arrives with colder temperatures, a significant increase in respiratory illnesses is being observed across the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified several states, along with New York City, experiencing a surge in respiratory viruses. 

This includes influenza (flu), Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and COVID. The escalation of these illnesses highlights a critical health concern as the nation enters the colder months.

CDC's Alert: States With 'Very High' Illness Levels

The CDC reports that these states are experiencing “very high” levels of respiratory viruses. This categorization is based on the weekly percentage of doctor visits attributable to respiratory disease symptoms. 

A sunny day in the French Quarter of New Orleans, with people walking along the sidewalk and a street musician playing the trombone. The street is lined with historic buildings

Source: Joao Francisco/Unsplash

The states of South Carolina and Louisiana have been specifically designated as “Level 12” status, a classification indicating extremely high rates of illness.

Additional States Facing High Illness Rates

An additional 13 states are also grappling with high levels of respiratory illnesses. These include Alabama, California, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

A daytime panoramic view of downtown Austin, Texas, showcasing its modern skyline with various skyscrapers against a backdrop of scattered clouds in a blue sky

Source: MJ Tangonan/Unsplash

This widespread impact illustrates the severity of the current health situation in various regions of the country.

CDC's Recommendation for Increased Caution

CDC Director Mandy Cohen has issued a video warning for Americans to take additional precautions against these illnesses.

A close-up image of a woman lying down wearing a white surgical mask

Source: Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

As the highly-mutated “Pirola” COVID variant spreads rapidly, Cohen recommends reinforcing protective measures such as mask-wearing. This advice comes amidst a notable increase in virus transmission rates.

Preventive Measures Against Respiratory Illnesses

In addition to wearing masks, Cohen emphasizes the importance of vaccinations against COVID, flu, and RSV for eligible individuals, particularly those over 60 in the video. 

A healthcare professional is applying an adhesive bandage to the upper arm of a patient after a vaccination. Both the patient and healthcare worker are wearing protective face masks

Source: CDC/Unsplash

Additional protective measures include regular hand washing, improving indoor ventilation, and general hygiene practices to mitigate the spread of these viruses.

Concerning Trends in Hospitalizations

Hospitalization rates due to COVID and flu are showing an upward trend. Recent data indicates that weekly COVID hospitalizations have reached levels not observed since late February. 

A clean and brightly lit hospital ward with several empty beds arranged in a row. Each bed has a blue mattress and white bedding, with privacy curtains in pink partly drawn

Source: Adhy Savala/Unsplash

Specifically, there were 22,513 hospitalizations recorded in the week ending December 2, highlighting a concerning resurgence of the virus.


Increased Flu Activity in Specific Regions

The CDC notes a significant increase in flu activity, particularly in the southeast and south-central areas of the United States. 

A close-up image of a man in a white t-shirt blowing his nose into a white tissue. He is focused on the tissue, with his eyes looking down

Source: Brittany Colette/Unsplash

This regional surge in flu cases is part of the broader trend of escalating respiratory illnesses during the winter season.


The Impact of the Current Flu Season

The current flu season has resulted in alarming statistics. 

A man in a dark t-shirt appears to be experiencing a headache, pressing his forehead with his hand. He is wearing a camouflage-patterned face mask covering his nose and mouth

Source: Usman Yousef/Unsplash

The CDC estimates at least 2.6 million flu-related illnesses, 26,000 hospitalizations, and 1,600 deaths so far. These figures reflect the substantial health impact of the flu across the nation.


Vaccination Uptake Among the Population

Regarding flu vaccinations, approximately 40.8 percent of adults and 41.6 percent of children have received the flu shot this year, as per CDC data.

A healthcare professional's hands, clad in white gloves, are drawing a vaccine from a vial into a syringe

Source: Mufid Majnun/Unsplash

However, the uptake of the updated COVID vaccine is lower, with only 17.2 percent of adults and 7.7 percent of children vaccinated.


Expert Advice on Mask Usage

Medical experts advise individuals, especially those at risk of severe illness or in crowded, poorly ventilated areas, to wear masks.

A black and white photograph of a man with glasses putting on a surgical mask. He is securing the elastic bands behind his ears

Source: Usman Yousaf/Unsplash

This recommendation is part of a broader strategy to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses during this surge in cases.


Preparing for the Peak of Respiratory Illnesses

As the peak season for respiratory illnesses approaches, the CDC advises the public to remain vigilant and proactive in adopting preventive measures. 

Close-up of a person's hands thoroughly lathered with soap under running water from a stainless steel sink faucet

Source: Mélissa Jeanty/Unsplash

This includes getting vaccinated, practicing good hygiene, and considering mask usage in appropriate situations to combat the spread of these illnesses.


The Importance of Staying Informed and Proactive

In light of the rising cases of respiratory illnesses, staying informed about CDC updates and recommendations is crucial.

A white mug with a spoon inside sits next to a box of tissues and a pair of tortoiseshell glasses. Used tissues are scattered around the items, suggesting someone is possibly dealing with a cold

Source: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

The public is encouraged to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their communities, demonstrating the collective effort required to navigate this challenging health landscape.