CDC keeps urging health-care providers to recommend and offer vaccines; flu, Covid-19 and RSV rates are elevated in Kentucky

State Department for Public Health graphs, adapted by Ky. Health News

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to encourage health-care providers to get their patients immunized against flu, Covid-19 and respiratory syncitial virus, noting that a recent poll shows that many Americans who have not yet been immunized report being open to vaccination.

“Strong provider recommendations for, and offers of, vaccination could increase influenza, Covid-19 and RSV vaccination coverage,” says the CDC’s Dec. 22 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

The survey sample was drawn from a random-digit-dialed cellular telephone survey that included adults in every state.

It found that between Sept. 24 and Dec. 9, an estimated 40% of Kentucky adults reported they had gotten a flu shot; 15% had received an updated 2023-24 Covid-19 vaccine, and 23% of adults 60 and older had received a vaccine for RSV, which poses the greatest risk for seniors and infants. 

Kentucky’s flu and updated Covid-19 vaccination rates are lower than the estimated national rates of 42% for flu and 18% for Covid-19, but higher than the national seniors rate for RSV, 17%. 

The state Department for Public Health‘s latest weekly respiratory-illness report shows that Covid-19, RSV and flu activity is elevated, and hospitalizations for RSV and flu are increasing. 

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.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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