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Force of Infection

Outbreak Outlook – Northeast – February 19
FEB 19, 2024



Welcome to the Northeastern edition of Outbreak Outlook! It is only available to paid subscribers. If you wish to become a paid subscriber and access region-specific information, please click the Subscribe now button below. Thanks for reading! -Caitlin


Respiratory Diseases


Flu season is not over quite yet for the Northeast. Outpatient visits for influenza-like illnesses held roughly steady, instead of declining as hoped, and influenza hospitalization rates are on an upward climb in about half the states in the region.

The rate of both new hospitalizations for influenza and proportion of outpatient visits for ILI held roughly steady in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and New Jersey.


Spotlight on New York: In New York City, the percentage of visits to the doctor for fever and cough or sore throat is still very high at 8%. It is declining, but very slowly. It’s been a very long flu season in NYC. Other parts of the New York State are struggling more. Confirmed influenza cases have increased in recent weeks in the Central, Capital, and Western parts of the state, and hospitalizations are rising too. The season is not over yet, so continued caution is warranted.

Massachusetts held roughly steady for outpatient visits, and saw a decrease of 0.6 points to 5.5 per 100,000 population for influenza-related hospitalizations.

Rhode Island and Vermont are mixed: they had moderate decreases in the proportion of outpatient visits for ILI but also saw moderate increases in new hospital admissions for influenza.

Maine saw a slight increase of 0.4 points to 3.2% of all outpatient visits for ILI, and continued the upward trajectory in hospital admissions that it has been on for a few weeks, increasing by 0.9 points to 5.7 admissions per 100,000 population.

New Hampshire (+0.5 to 3.2), and Connecticut (+0.9 to 4.0) also reported moderate increases in new hospital admissions for influenza.


The number of new weekly hospitalizations for Covid-19 has improved steadily since the holiday season, though current levels remain elevated. Wastewater concentration of SARS-CoV-2 has dropped considerably in the Northeast, too.

More recently, in the past week wastewater concentrations remained relatively stable in the region, though the Northeast continues to have the highest wastewater concentration in the country.

At the state level, Vermont stands out in a good way this week: it had a 31% drop in new hospitalizations in the past week, and now has the lowest regional rate of hospitalizations as well: at 4.7 per 100,000. (Caveat: States with smaller population appear to have larger fluctuations due to the smaller number of individuals involved.)

New Jersey (-13% to 7.5 per 100,000) and Connecticut (-5% to 7.0) also logged notable improvements in hospitalization rates in the past week.

Rates remained roughly stable over the past week in New York (8.6 per 100,000 population), Massachusetts (7.8), and Pennsylvania (6.3).


PCR test positivity for RSV continues to improve. After a peak in December, positivity has now decreased to below 4%.


Stomach Bugs

Norovirus activity remains elevated, with test positivity over 15%. The Northeast has the highest test positivity in the country. The next month or two is peak norovirus season, so be cautious. Norovirus spreads very easily from person to person, causing vomiting and diarrhea. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water to prevent transmission.

Food recalls
The following foods are being recalled because they are contaminated. Please check your cupboards and throw out any of these items:


Raw Cheddar Cheese (more info)

Multiple other product recalls associated with the queso fresco and Cotija cheese recall from last week, including taco kids. See the full list here.

Ready to eat meat products from Don Novo, including chorizo and smoked pork ribs (more info)

Previously reported:

A big recall of Queso Fresco and Cotija Cheese is affecting numerous consumer products: (more info)

Trader Joe’s Chicken Enchiladas Verde, Cilantro Salad Dressing, Elote Chopped Salad Kit, Trader Joe’s Southwest Salad (more info)

Cilantro Lime Crema, Everything Sauce Fiesta, Cilantro Cotija dressing, Poblano Caesar dressing, Cilantro Dressing, Street Taco Express Meal Kit sold at Trader Joes, Don Pancho and HEB (more info)

Rojo’s Black Bean 6 Layer Dip (more info)

Cheese, Yogurt, Sour cream by Rizo Brothers California Creamery (more info)

Robitussin Honey CF Max cough syrup products (more info)

Charcuterie meats sold by Fratelli Beretta and, newly, Busseto (more info)

Tons of different granola and oatmeal products from Quaker (more info).

If you have food allergies, you may wish to review these FDA safety alerts and USDA alerts for foods with undeclared allergens.

In other news
A measles case was reported in a child with a recent history of international travel in Toronto, Canada. While not technically in the Northeastern census region, I couldn’t find much else to share this week.

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