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Sickness Is Back, Baby

November 19, 2021  ||  by Matt Albasi

Sore Stomachs For The South

Last week, we dug into the rising flu levels in the South, particularly in Florida. While those trends continue into this week, Kinsa’s data also shows G.I. symptoms like nausea, diarrhea and vomiting are increasing in southern states. Illnesses that cause G.I. distress have been relatively low since the pandemic began — likely as a result of social distancing and masking. As people begin gathering for the holidays, we expect to see an uptick in illness, potentially including those that cause G.I. distress. 

Sickness Is Back, Baby

With COVID dominating life since March 2020, it might feel like Americans as a whole have never been sicker. Interestingly however, thanks to precautions like social distancing and masking,  levels of illness other than COVID  have been historically low throughout most of 2020 and 2021. (Remember the small silver lining of no flu season last year?). Now, it looks like sickness is back. 

Kinsa’s data shows that illness levels in the Midwest, Northeast and West — three out of four census regions — are currently similar to illness levels during the same timeframe in 2018. 2018 was a moderate illness season compared to the particularly brutal 2019-2020 season, and the last relatively “normal” cold and flu season. 

The return to normal levels of illness is likely because of many co-circulating viruses and bacteria. While illness levels in 2020 were influenced mainly by COVID, this year, flu, RSV, and colds are being passed around as pandemic-era  precautions are loosened, and people return to “normal” life. 

ILI by Age showing young adults 18-24 years having more fevers in November

Young Adults Are Getting More Ill This Month

One age group in particular is getting more ill this month. Since the beginning of November, Kinsa’s data shows people aged 18-24 years old have had more fevers than than all other adult age groups and younger teenagers. The young adults cohort is rarely a leader in fevers compared to other age groups — traditionally, younger children are the bearers of nasty germs. 

There are several possible explanations for this increase, and reality is likely a combination of them all. Like recently seen in Michigan, flu is sweeping through some college campuses, which could account for part of the increased fevers. Other illnesses, like RSV and various cold viruses are also circulating at normal levels (mentioned above). Additionally, according to CDC data, this age group has the third highest levels of COVID cases. The good news is that as booster eligibility is expanding, many who received a vaccine early are now eligible for the booster. Anyone in this age group should also get a flu shot to protect themselves and stay healthy this holiday season.

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