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National Illness is Below Pre-COVID Season Levels

February 4, 2022  ||  BY KINSA'S EPIDEMIOLOGY TEAM

National Illness is Below Pre-COVID Season Levels

Over recent weeks, Kinsa data has shown a steady decline in illness levels across the country as we’ve moved past the Omicron peak. Our data also shows that national respiratory illness activity (fever, cough, sore throat) decreased in the past week, and is below levels observed at this time during pre-COVID seasons (we’ll refer to this as “normal seasonal levels” below). 

Kinsa's national fever incidence showing decreased illness levels

As the number of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continued to rapidly decline this week, a decline in hospitalizations followed. While this is an uplifting trend, case counts are still higher than those reported earlier in the pandemic when other variants were dominant (i.e. Delta), and precautionary measures (like using a high-quality mask) are still encouraged. 

Last week, we reported that we’re keeping an eye on regions first hit by Omicron, like the Northeast. Thus far, Kinsa data shows that while respiratory illness activity remains below normal seasonal levels in the Northeast, the steady decline has plateaued in the pediatric population. We’ll continue to monitor this over the coming weeks.

As a refresher, Kinsa data showed that flu activity steadily increased leading up to the holidays, but dropped over the past month, likely due to prevention behaviors changing in response to Omicron. As folks in these regions have started to resume more in-person and indoor gatherings, influenza activity might increase again.

Kinsa's household transmission 2017-2022

Follow Up: Who’s Bringing Illness Into the Home?  

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been following who is bringing illness into the home. Kinsa’s data shows that prior to COVID, more than 75% of household illness originated in children, who then transmitted it to others in the household. This pattern stays constant even through a bad cold and flu season (2018). 

When COVID hit, illness transmission flipped in an unusual way: adults became the primary index cases bringing illness into the home. We reported on this back in October (read more here), and the pattern continues. If we look at the chart above, Kinsa data shows peaks in “Adult to Others” transmission in correlation with COVID surges. 

While Omicron has peaked nationally, Kinsa’s household transmission data reinforces how important it is for adults to stay diligent with precautionary measures, particularly if they have young children in their home.

Readers, please note: One input in Kinsa’s HealthWeather COVID-19 risk is daily confirmed cases as collected from state public health authorities by Johns Hopkins University. On the HealthWeather map, Florida and Tennessee may appear to have lower COVID risk than they actually have, due to recent state reporting delays/ lags

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