Seasonal respiratory illness in Kentucky has declined for three weeks, but the numbers are still considered elevated

By Melissa Patrick, Kentucky Health News

Emergency-department visits and hospital admissions for respiratory disease in Kentucky have dropped for three weeks in a row, but the Kentucky Department for Public Health still considers the rate of respiratory virus activity to be elevated and the number of hospitalizations to be high. 

Respiratory illness-related ED visits have dropped 47% since the last week of 2023, when the health department showed the highest number of ED visits during this respiratory-illness season, 6,147. 

In the three weeks since, there has been a steady decline in such visits, dropping to 3,243 visits in the week ended Jan. 20.

Of those, 2,379 were for flu, down 15% from the week prior; 663 were for Covid-19, down 30% from the week prior; and 201 were for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), down 38% from the week prior.

Hospital admissions associated with respiratory disease have also dropped steadily for three weeks in a row, to 530. That’s down 47% from the season’s high of 1,002 in the week ended Dec. 30. 

In the latest report, 236 admissions were for Covid-19, down 33% from the week prior; 216 were for flu, down 22% from the week prior; and 78 were for RSV, down 27% from the week prior.

Kentucky has no counties with high Covid-19 hospital admission rates in the week ended Jan. 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it does have 24 counties with between 10 and 20 Covid-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, a rate the CDC considers “medium.” These are largely in the easternmost part of the state and in a strip down the middle of the state. 

In the week ended Jan. 20, the state reported 2,042 laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19, down 32% from the prior week. It reported 2,745 lab-confirmed cases of the flu, down 16% from the week prior. 

Among children 4 and younger, the number of respiratory-illnessemergency-department visits also dropped for the last three weeks, to 697 in the week ended Jan. 20. That’s down 53% from a season-high of 1,489 on Dec. 30. 

In the latest report, 471 vists of those 4 and younger were for flu, down 11% from the week prior; 125 were for RSV, down 33% from the prior week; and 101 were for Covid-19, down 30%.

Respiratory-related hospitalizations for children 4 and younger have dropped for six weeks in a row, down to 38 in the week ended Jan. 20 from a season-high of 134 in the week ended Dec. 16, a drop of 72%

In the latest report, 18 of the hospitalizations were for RSV, down 44% from the week prior; 12 were for flu, down 48% from the week prior;  and 8 were for Covid-19, 2 more than the week prior. 

Hospital visits also dropped among children 5 through 17, with 633 respiratory-related ED visits reported in the week ended Jan. 20, down 18% from the week prior. 

In the latest report, 565 of the yoith visits were for flu, a drop of nearly 19%; 54 were for Covid-19; and 14 were for RSV. The Covid-19 and RSV numbers have fluctuated little for several weeks.

The number of ED visits in this age group has declined from a high of 1,000 in the week ended Dec. 23, but it has not been a steady decline; there were nine hospitalizations in the week ended Jan. 20 among children aged 5-17, the same as the week before.

Of those, seven were for flu, up one from the prior week; one was for Covid-19, down from three the week prior; and one was for RSV, up from none the prior week. 

Since the first week in October, 236 Kentuckians have died from Covid-19 and eight have died from the flu. One of the Covid-19 deaths and one of the flu deaths have been children. 

In the week ended Jan. 6, there were two Covid-19 deaths and one flu death reported in Kentucky. These numbers follow two weeks where the state saw 23 Covid-19 deaths during each week.

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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