Experts are warning that this may be a particularly severe flu season, and data seems to show that Black people are suffering the most.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pulled data from a network that represented approximately 29 million people. They found that the hospitalization rate for Black patients with the flu, at 22.6 per 100,000 population, was almost four times higher than the rate for white patients at just 5.9 per 100,000. These numbers were representative as of Nov. 19.
In fact, this is the first year since 2010 where the rate of hospitalization for Black patients has been more than three times the rate of white ones at this point in the season.
On average for this week of the year where the flu season is concerned, the overall rate of people sick with influenza was nearly 14 times higher than the typical average. And while whites have seen a flu hospitalization rate 8.5 times as high as their average over the past ten years, the rate for the Black population stands 19.3 times higher than average.
According to Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, rates of influenza nosedived during the COVID-19 pandemic between 2020 and 2021 in large part because people weren’t congregating and they were using face coverings that helped prevent the spread of COVID and the flu. Now that folks are gathering again with most faces uncovered, the opportunities for people to be exposed and to contract influenza are increasing.
Late in October this year, the CDC noted that the rates of flu in the U.S. had been uncharacteristically low. They warned that “reduced population immunity, particularly among young children who may never have had flu exposure or been vaccinated, could bring about a robust return of flu.”
As of Nov. 28, the CDC estimated there have been at least 6.2 million illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths thus far into this flu season.