16 States Where Respiratory Illness Is Spreading Fast, CDC Warns

The agency says cases of COVID-19, RSV, the flu, and colds are surging in these places.

The world has changed in many lasting ways since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. But while we might be in the habit of carrying around hand sanitizer or being extra vigilant about identifying potential symptoms, the fact that seasonal viruses still spread around is no different today. Coronavirus has joined the all-too-familiar list alongside the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and the common cold as potential public health hazards. And now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that respiratory illness is spreading fast in more than a dozen states.

RELATED: Doctor Reveals COVID Symptoms in Patients Who Haven't Gotten a Fall Booster.

The latest data considers patients who report to their doctor or the emergency room with respiratory illness symptoms, including fever with a cough or a sore throat. As of Dec. 7, 16 states were listed as either "high" or "very high" compared to normal conditions throughout the year, earning activity level scores of eight or higher on a scale from one to 13.

Unfortunately, numbers appear to be trending upward across the board in some cases. On Dec. 8, the CDC said positive tests for COVID-19 and the flu were increasing nationally, as well as emergency room visits for the two illnesses. Meanwhile, the same figures for RSV appear to have flatlined or decreased slightly compared to the previous week.

The latest spike also comes as the agency continues to track a COVID-19 variant called JN.1 that currently makes up 15 to 29 percent of all cases in the U.S., according to a Dec. 8 update. The offshoot of the BA.2.86 omicron subvariant was first discovered in September and is now the fastest-growing nationwide. The CDC adds that the surge indicates it's either more transmissible or better at evading peoples' immune systems, but there is no sign that the viral offshoot causes more severe illness.

Some experts caution that the current surge could still be related to a post-pandemic public susceptibility to the viruses after doing away with heightened health precautions, citing a drastic spike last year. "It may take some time for viral levels and the immunity dynamic to level out," Karen Acker, MD, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at New York–Presbyterian Komansky Children's Hospital, told Fortune. "This may be another bad year."

But while the latest numbers may come as a bit of a shock, the same precautions can still work to keep you healthy.

"Everything that we're hearing about it is not any new virus or new pathogen, it is the common things that we see every season that perhaps coming together," Philip Huang, MD, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, told ABC News. "The preventive things are all the same, you know, stay home if you're sick, wash your hands, cough into your sleeve, don't rub your eyes, nose and mouth, get up to date on the vaccinations."

So, which areas are currently seeing the worst spikes? Read on for the states where respiratory illness is spreading fast, according to data from the CDC.


The skyline of Mobile, Alabama at dusk

Respiratory Illness Level: High

As cases begin to mount, the CDC ranks Alabama at Level 10.



Respiratory Illness Level: High

The Golden State is currently seeing a significant rise in respiratory illnesses. Data places California at Level 10 with its case count.

RELATED: What's Really Behind China's Surge in Respiratory Illnesses, Doctors Say.


Denver, Colorado

Respiratory Illness Level: High

Cases are heading up in Colorado. The state currently sits at Level 9, according to the CDC.


The skyline of Tampa Bay, Florida at sunset

Respiratory Illness Level: High

A spike in COVID-19, RSV, flu, and cold cases has placed Florida at Level 8 on the CDC's scale for respiratory illness activity.

RELATED: New "Highly Contagious" Skin Infection Is Spreading, CDC Warns—How to Stay Safe.


cityscape photo of Atlanta, Georgia

Respiratory Illness Level: High

Residents in Georgia may want to take note: It's one of the places where there's at least a "high" degree of respiratory illness activity, landing at Level 10 on the CDC's list.


cityscape photos of bars and restaurants on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana at twilight
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Respiratory Illness Level: Very High

Louisiana is in the unfortunate position of experiencing a relatively strong surge in respiratory illnesses. The state is just one of two that landed at Level 12.

RELATED: Deadly Salmonella Outbreak Spreading in 34 States—These Are the Symptoms.


The skyline of Jackson, Mississippi with a view of the state capitol building

Respiratory Illness Level: High

Mississippi is another southern state with higher respiratory illness activity at this time. It currently sits at Level 10, according to the CDC's data.


Las Vegas, Nevada

Respiratory Illness Level: High

As numbers there move up, Nevada has landed at Level 8 on the CDC's respiratory illness scale, as of Dec. 7.

New Jersey

Jersey City Skyline with Goldman Sachs Tower Reflected in Water of Hudson River, as seen from Battery Park

Respiratory Illness Level: High

Up in the Northeast, New Jersey is also seeing a high level of respiratory illness activity. It currently sits at Level 8.

RELATED: COVID Symptoms Now Follow a Distinct Pattern, Doctors Report.

New Mexico

cityscape photo of Santa Fe, New Mexico at dusk

Respiratory Illness Level: High

A significantly higher number of people have recently reported respiratory illness symptoms in New Mexico. The state is currently at Level 10, per the CDC's data.

New York

View of New York City from the top of the Empire State Building.

Respiratory Illness Level: High

While New York State does not have elevated levels of respiratory illness, its largest metropolis does. The agency counts New York City as a subset, where it currently sits at Level 10.

North Carolina

city skyline of Charlotte, North Carolina at night

Respiratory Illness Level: High

North Carolina is also seeing a spike in residents reporting respiratory illnesses. Data shows that it's currently at Level 9.

RELATED: Listeria Outbreak Has Hit 10 States—These Are the Warning Signs of Listeriosis.

South Carolina

charleston south carolina
SeanPavonePhoto / iStock

Respiratory Illness Level: Very High

The latest spike in respiratory illnesses is particularly bad in South Carolina. Along with Louisiana, it is the only other state to reach Level 12 and earn a "very high" ranking.


Scenic View of Nashville

Respiratory Illness Level: High

More people are coming down with RSV, the flu, and COVID-19 in Tennessee lately. The state is currently at Level 10 for respiratory illness activity.


austin texas skyline

Respiratory Illness Level: High

There are a growing number of reported respiratory illness cases in Texas. The Lone Star State currently sits at Level 8 on the CDC's scale.

RELATED: The Most Accurate Time to Take a COVID Test, New Study Reveals.


Casper, Wyoming

Respiratory Illness Level: High

Case counts are also rising in Wyoming. The CDC's data places it at Level 9 based on recent activity.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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