RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wastewater analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that COVID-19 could be increasing in North Carolina.
The age of mass drive-thru testing for COVID-19 is over. Many Americans are no longer regularly testing themselves, and even when they do test, they almost never report those results to a government agency.
Because of that, gathering data and tracking COVID-19 cases across the country is more complicated than it was during the thick of the pandemic.
Wastewater analysis is seen as the best method currently for tracking the virus. The CDC's website reports, "wastewater monitoring can detect viruses spreading from one person to another within a community earlier than clinical testing and before they go to their doctor or hospital. It can also detect infections without symptoms. If you see increased Wastewater Viral Activity Levels of SARS-CoV-2, it might indicate that there is a higher risk of infection."
The latest wastewater analysis shows an increase in virus particles concentrated in the Midwest, North Carolina and the Northeast.
The good news is that most people in the United States have some combination of natural and vaccine-created immunity against the virus. Because of that the virus is not causing as severe complications as it did when it first spread around the world.
The CDC is warning that the coronavirus subvariant JN.1 is now the "fastest-growing" variant in the US.
Hospitalizations caused by COVID-19 remain low throughout most of the country.
Likewise, deaths have decreased significantly. This year there have been around 67,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the United States. Last year that number was 246,200 and in 2021 it was 463,300.
In addition to coronavirus, cases of the flu and RSV have the medical community on high alert.
Despite the elevated numbers, UNC Hospitals infectious diseases expert, Dr. David Weber, said seasonally the numbers on track.
"This is pretty typical for this time of year if you went back pre-pandemic," Weber said "We start seeing rises of all the viral respiratory diseases usually in early- to mid-November. They tend to go up and peak at the end of January, early February -- but we can peak as early as early November and as late as March or April."
The news comes as AAA estimates five million Americans will take a flight over the coming days.
"I mean you're the judge of your own safety, but I would be a little bit cautious if I were in a packed plane and all the germs floating about," Raleigh resident Ben Jordan said.
Weber strongly suggests getting the appropriate immunization to protect yourself and your loved ones during holiday gatherings.
With respect to COVID-19 Weber said, "The booster kicks in much faster than the new vaccine because it's really just boosting an already pre-existing immunity. So that kicks in even faster."
Weber told ABC11 that if people feel sick, then they should consider virtually joining family, friends or loved ones for the holiday.