Flu, Covid-19 and RSV rates are so high that the CDC issued a health advisory

Published 5:58 pm Wednesday, December 27, 2023

As illness from the three respiratory viruses tracked by Kentucky health departments — influenza, Covid-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — continue to pile up, the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention has issued a health advisory urging more Americans to get vaccinated.

“Low vaccination rates, coupled with ongoing increases in national and international respiratory disease activity caused by multiple pathogens, including influenza viruses, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19), and RSV, could lead to more severe disease and increased healthcare capacity strain in the coming weeks,” says the advisory, which also reported a rise in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children following Covid-19 infection.

The advisory says there is an urgent need to increase immunization for the flu, Covid-19, and RSV, along with the use of authorized and approved therapeutics this winter.

As of Sept. 18, 58% of Kentucky’s total population was considered fully vaccinated for Covid-19, and 41% had received an additional dose, according to the state’s Covid-19 dashboard.

During the 2022-2023 flu season, 40.1% of Kentuckians got a flu vaccine. Among children, that rate was 47.1%, and among adults, it was 35.8%, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

And it appears there aren’t enough of the recently approved RSV vaccines to go around, according to reporting by Louisville’s WDRB on Dec. 6.

Dr. Michael Kuduk, president of the Kentucky Medical Association, told Molly Jett of WDRB that the children’s RSV antibody injection is “pretty much not available” and the vaccine for pregnant women is “really hard to find.”

“Manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand,” Kuduk said. “It’s not going to help anybody this year in the middle of RSV season.”

December 9

The state Department for Public Health’s latest weekly respiratory-illness report shows Covid-19 and RSV activity is high; flu activity is increasing; and hospitalizations for RSV are increasing.

In the week ended Dec. 9, Kentucky reported 3,144 laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19, down from 3,907 the week prior. The state reported 1,109 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu, up from 866 the prior week.

In the week ended Dec. 9, emergency-department visits for the three respiratory illnesses in Kentucky remained high, but dropped a bit, to 3,383 visits, down from 3,631 the week prior.

Of the week’s cases, 1,661 were for flu, up from 1,650 the week prior; 1,070 were for Covid-19, down from 1,183 the week prior; and 753 were for RSV, down from 798 the week prior.

This week’s dashboard breaks children’s cases into two age categories, 0 through 4 and 5 through 17.

Among children 4 and younger, there were 1,201 emergency-department visits for respiratory illness. Of those, 548 were for RSV, down from 597 the week prior; 496 were for flu, down from 522 the week prior; and 157 were for Covid-19, down from 184 the week prior.

Among children 5-17, there were 614 emergency-department visits for respiratory illness. Of those, 472 were for flu, up from 393 the week prior; 79 were for Covid-19, up from 54 the week prior; and 63 were for RSV, down from 72 the week prior.

Overall hospitalizations for respiratory illness also dropped a bit, to 577, down from 584 the week prior. Of those, 310 were for Covid-19, down from 320 the week prior; 172 for RSV, up from 159; and 95 for flu, down from 105 the week prior.

Among children 0-4, there were 103 hospitalizations for respiratory illness, down from 127 the prior week. Of those, 93 were for RSV, up from 92; seven were for flu, down from 18; and three were for Covid-19, down from 17.

Among children 5-17, there were nine hospitalizations for respiratory illness in the week ended Dec. 9, down from 11 the prior week. Of those, four were for flu, down from five; four were for RSV, up from three; and one was for Covid-19, down from three.

A CDC report for the week ended Dec. 9, showed that Covid-19 hospitalization rates in 10 Kentucky counties were above 20 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, which the CDC considers high.

Letcher County continues to stand out with a rate of 41.8 Covid-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents. The previous week, that rate was 74.2. Other counties with the “high” designation were Pike, with a rate of 23.8 per 100,000; Martin (20.2); Magoffin (20); Lawrence (20.2); Johnson (20); Greenup (20.2); Floyd (20); Carter (20.2); and Boyd (20.2).

December 16

In the week ended Dec. 16, emergency-department visits for respiratory illness increased for yet another week, to 3,921, up from 3,670 the week prior.

Of the latest week’s cases, 2,072 were for flu, up from 1,720 the week prior; 1,073 were for Covid-19, down from 1,134; and 776 for RSV, down from 816.

Among children 4 and younger, emergency-department visits due to respiratory illness increased slightly, to 1,303, up from 1,265 the week prior. Of those, 604 were for flu, up from 507; 570 were for RSV, down from 594; and 129 were for Covid-19, down from 164.

Among children 5 to 17, emergency-department visits due to respiratory illness increased to 810, up from 653 the week before. Of those, 653 were for flu, up from 498. Covid-19 and RSV numbers stayed about the same as the week before, at 86 and 71, respectively.

In that same week, hospital admissions for respiratory illness dropped a bit, to 617, down from 639 in the prior week. Of those, 310 were for Covid-19, down from 345; 171 were for RSV, down from 191; and 136 were for flu, up from 103.

Among children 4 and under, hospitalizations for respiratory illness increased to 130, up from 105 the week prior. Of those, 101 were for RSV, up from 94; 19 were for flu, up from 7; and 10 were for Covid-19, up from 7.

Among children 5 to 17, hospitalizations due to respiratory illness increased to 17, up from 10 the week prior. Of those, 13 were for flu, up from 4; 3 were for RSV, down from 4; and 1 was for Covid-19, the same as the week prior.

A CDC report for the week ended Dec. 16 showed that Covid-19 hospitalization rates in 11 Kentucky counties were above 2 hospitalizations per 10,000 residents, which the CDC considers high.

The leading county remains Letcher, with a rate of 2.3 hospitalizations per 100. The other high counties, with rates of 2.05 to 2.12, were all in northeastern Kentucky: Lewis, Greenup, Boyd, Carter, Rowan, Menifee, Morgan, Elliott, Lawrence and Martin.

Deaths: Since Oct. 1, the state health department has attributed 118 deaths to Covid-19 and six to flu. One Covid-19 death was reported during the week ended Dec. 9.

Respiratory-related deaths for flu and Covid-19 on the state’s weekly dashboard are reported according to when they occur, which sometimes leads to a delay between the actual date of death and the submission to the department.