Rising flu cases drive continued increases in emergency-room visits and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses in Kentucky

By Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

A big jump in influenza cases more than outweighed small declines in Covid-19 and respiratory syncitial virus as Kentuckians headed into the holidays, according to the state’s latest respiratory-illness update.

The report for the week ended Dec. 23 shows the three illnesses accounted for 4,431 Kentucky emergency-department visits, an increase of 10.3 percent from the week before. That was driven entirely by a 30 percent increase in flu cases, from 2,109 to 2,737.

Covid-19 cases declined from 1,107 to 1,080 during the week, and RSV cases dropped from 802 to 614, a decline of 31 percent, according to the report from the state Department for Public Health.

Kentucky hospital admissions for the three diseases rose only 3.3 percent, from 670 to 692, while admissions for the flu rose 36 percent, from 144 to 196.

Covid-19 admissions declined from 339 to 329, and RSV admissions declined from 187 to 167 during the week ended Dec. 23.

The week saw the development of a new hotspot for Covid-19 hospital admissions, in far western Kentucky and two nearby Illinois counties. The rate of Covid-19 hospital admissions was 23.1 per 100,000 residents in Ballard, Carlisle, Hickman, Graves, Livingston, Lyon, McCracken and Marshall counties.

That list includes all the counties in the Jackson Purchase except Calloway, which had a very low Covid-19 hospital-admission rate of 0.9 per 100,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which considers rates above 20 to be high and below 10 to be low.

Parts of Kentucky’s northeastern quadrant remained hotspots for Covid-19 hospital admissions. Greenup, Boyd, Carter and Martin counties had rates of 23.4 per 100,000. Pike County’s rate was 20.3, and the rate in Fleming, Mason and Bracken counties was 20, according to the CDC.

Doctors say the best way to prevent hospitalization for Covid-19, the flu and RSV is immunization. Vaccines are readily available for the flu and Covid-19. The RSV vaccines for infants and people over 60 are in shorter supply, so experts advise you to check with your doctor or nurse practitioner.

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