State reports two Kentucky children have died, one from flu and one from Covid-19, but hospital visits show first decline in months

By Melissa Patrick, Kentucky Health News

As the state reported the first two deaths of children from Covid-19 and influenza, Kentucky saw the first drops in emergency-room visits and hospital admissions for the diseases in more than three months.

State health department graphs, adapted by Kentucky Health News

The weekly respiratory-illness update from the state Department for Public Health showed a 21% drop in emergency-department visits for the flu, Covid and respiritory syncitial virus (RSV), and a 13% drop in respiratory-related hospitalizations in the week ended Jan. 6. 

The children’s deaths, one from Covid and one form the flu, are the first pediatric deaths from respiratory illness reported this season. Neither of the children were vaccinated against their respective viruses, the department said. The report did not include any other information about the children. 

“Influenza and Covid-19 are serious illnesses that unfortunately can be deadly for some people, including young children,” said Dr. Steven Stack, the state’s public health commissioner. “It is important for people who have not been vaccinated to get their updated influenza and Covid-19 vaccines this season, along with other recommended immunizations, to protect themselves.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months old and older get the annual flu and Covid vaccines, especially children younger than 5 or anyone at high risk for complications.

While hospital cases of the flu, Covid and RSV declined for the first time in many weeks, they continue to be widespread across Kentucky, says the release. 

Deaths are a lagging indicator of disease. Since Oct. 1, 165 Kentuckians have died from Covid-19 and seven have died from the flu, according to the health department’s weekly respiratory report. 

In the week ended Jan. 6, Kentucky reported 3,173 laboratory confirmed cases of flu, down 19% from the week prior. The state reported 3,316 laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid, down nearly 14% from the prior week. 

Covid, the flu and RSV all saw a drop in emergency department visits and hospitalizations in the week ended Jan. 6. Flu has led in emergency-department visits for weeks, but Covid-19 has been the leading cause for hospitalizations since the state starting its reporting in October. 

Among children 4 and younger, the number of respiratory-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations also dropped in the week ended Jan. 6. Emergency department visits for this age group dropped 23 % from the prior week, to 1,137, and hospitalizations dropped 13%, to 825. 

They also dropped among children 5-17, with 589 respiratory-related emergency department visits reported in the week ended Jan. 6, down nearly 40% from the prior week, and 825 respiratory-related hospitalizations, down 13% from the prior week. 

And just like the overall numbers, most of the emergency department visits  for both of these age groups were for flu and most of the hospitalizations were for Covid-19. 

A CDC report for the week ended Jan. 6 showed 11 Kentucky counties with hospitalization rates above 20 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, a rate the CDC considers high. 

Boyd, Carter,  Greenup Lawrence and Martin counties had a rate of 26.6 admissions per 100,000; Pike County had 22.9; Lewis County 21.8; and Daviess, Hancock, McLean and Ohio counties had 20.3.

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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