Respiratory illness in Ky. keeps declining, but slowly, and is still elevated; more kids are in hospitals; not too late to get vaccinated

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News
While emergency-department visits and hospital admissions related to respiratory illness were again less numerous in the week ended Feb. 4, the state Department for Public Health still considers them elevated.
ED visits for respiratory-associated illness in Kentucky in the week saw a 6.7% drop, to 3,005 visits, according to the health department’s weekly respiratory report.
Kentucky hospital admissions for the diseases in Kentucky dropped 25% from the previous week, to 428 in the week ended Feb. 3.
Admissions for all three respiratory viruses monitored by the state saw big drops. Flu admissions dropped 25%, to 222; Covid-19 admissions dropped 19.6%, to 168; and RSV admissions dropped 59%, to 28.
Again, none of the state’s counties had high rates of Covid-19 hospital admissions in the week ended Feb. 3, but 13 had admission rates between 10 and 19.9 admissions per 100,000 people, a rate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers “medium.”
The counties are bunched in Southern Kentucky (Barren, Hart, Metcalfe and Monroe), Central Kentucky (Boyle, Casey, Lincoln, Garrard and Mercer) and northeastern Kentucky (Elliott, Morgan, Menifee and Rowan).
Children 4 and younger saw a slight uptick in hospital admissions for respiratory illness in the week ending Feb. 4, largely driven by nine Covid-19 admissions, eight more than the week prior.
Children 5 to 17 saw a 40% increase in respiratory-related ED visits, to 737, and a 100% increase in hospital admissions (18), both driven by increases in flu.
In the week ended Feb. 3, the state reported 3,415 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu, less than a 1% decrease from the previous week It reported 2,173 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19, up 4% from the week prior.
Since the first week in October, 296 Kentuckians have died from Covid-19, and 28 from the flu, the health department says. One Covid-19 victim and one flu victim were children.
It’s not too late to get vaccinated. Flu season in Kentucky runs through mid-May, RSV outbreaks tend to occur through the end of spring, and the CDC warns that the virus that causes Covid-19 is constantly changing and has not yet established a regular season.
Health officials recommend that everyone 6 months old and older get the annual flu vaccine and updated Covid-19 vaccines, especially children younger than 5 or anyone at high risk for complications.
Vaccines for RSV are recommended for some infants and young children, pregnant women and adults 60 and older, although a shortage of the vaccine has been reported.
Earlier this week, WKYT-TV reported there have been six flu-related deaths in Lexington since October, and that the most recent deaths were a person in their 40s and another in their 60s. The health department told WKYT that 84% of the 2,030 people with lab-confirmed influenza in Fayette County since October had not received a seasonal flu shot.
Update 2/11/24: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of children 4 and younger hospitalized for Covid-19 (nine) and the correct increase from the week prior (eight) when the state had only one Covid-19 hospitalization in this age group.

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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