Kansas health experts monitor COVID-19, flu and RSV trifecta as holiday season approaches

TOPEKA – Doctors and public health researchers anticipate that an increase in COVID-19 infection during the holiday months would complicate the medical response to the increased prevalence of the flu and a complicated influenza virus.

The trifecta of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, could lead to an escalation of ill health and hospitalizations this winter as precautionary measures such as vaccinations, masking and isolation eased during 2022. In the winter of 2021-2022 , Kansas has experienced an increase in Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19.

“We’re just crossing our fingers,” said Dana Hawkinson, director of infection control at the University of Kansas Health System.

Hawkinson said there was a gap of two to four weeks between infection and hospitalization for COVID-19 and urged Kansas residents to get vaccinated and boosted to protect themselves from the more dangerous aspects of the virus.

Since COVID-19 spread through Kansas in March 2020, the state has documented nearly 900,000 cases. The actual number is believed to be higher because testing for the virus has dropped. Eighteen Kansas counties have reported more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, with 171,000 cases in Johnson County and 164,000 in Sedgwick County, contributing more than a third of the state’s total.

The latest report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment showed that 9,657 deaths in Kansas were associated with COVID-19 during the pandemic. Kansas’ number incorporated 2,613 deaths in 2022.

Dana Hawkinson, MD, University of Kansas Health System, said the flu season combined with COVID-19 and a challenging influenza virus could make it more difficult for hospitals to handle a surge in patients. (Screenshot of Kansas Reflector from KU Health System Facebook channel)

reinfection risks

Nathan Bahr, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Kansas Medical Center, said there is reason to be concerned about research results indicating that people who contract COVID-19 multiple times are more susceptible to erosion of organ function. . He compared him to someone who repeatedly injured a leg and ended up suffering a fracture.

“The more times this happens, the greater the risk of losing function,” he said.

Washington University in St. Louis said the Veterans Administration’s analysis of the medical records of 5.4 million patients suggests that individuals who contracted COVID-19 more than once were twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to those who contracted the virus. one time. In addition, the researchers said that risks to kidney, lung and gastrointestinal health were higher among those infected multiple times.

Amber Schmidtke, chair of natural sciences and mathematics at Saint Mary’s University at Leavenworth, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed Kansas in the second highest category of five categories in terms of incidence of flu that does not require hospitalization. . Flu-like symptoms included in the CDC analysis were fever, cough, and sore throat.

The CDC produced a color-coded map that placed Kansas in the “high” and Missouri in the “moderate” flu range. Flu-like symptoms were highest in South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia.

“This year the intensity is so high, especially in the South, that the CDC had to add a new color to the very high category,” Schmidtke said on the KU Health System broadcast.

She recommended that people get a flu shot and a COVID-19 booster. However, there is no vaccine for RSV available in the United States.

Amber Schmidtke, chair of the division of natural sciences at the University of Saint Mary at Leavenworth, said the CDC reports that Kansas has a high incidence of flu-like symptoms among non-hospitalized people, while Missouri has a moderate level of fever, cough and sore throat.  (Screenshot of Kansas Reflector from KU Health System Facebook channel)
Amber Schmidtke of the University of Saint Mary at Leavenworth said the CDC reports that Kansas has a high incidence of flu-like symptoms among non-hospitalized people, while Missouri is in the moderate range. (Screenshot of Kansas Reflector from KU Health System Facebook channel)

sewage water detection

Marc Johnson, a professor of microbiology at the University of Missouri and a researcher for Missouri’s wastewater program to track the changing nature of COVID-19, said the ability to detect emerging strains of the virus has been refined over the past two years. The holiday season is an opportune time for the virus to spread and evolve with people in confined spaces, he said.

“Last year and the year before, this is exactly when we started to see bloodlines. We started to see the numbers go up,” Johnson said.

He said that the rise of Delta and the rise of Omicron produced a “severe winter”.

“Fortunately,” Johnson said, “we’re getting a lot of new variants and none of them are doing what Delta did or what Omicron did. With Delta, that was really awesome because we got to see it moving across the state.”

In response to a question about whether heavy rain had led to misleading conclusions about the concentration of COVID-19 in wastewater samples, Johnson said the solution was to also test for the presence of caffeine. “The numbers can be compared to the routine presence of the coffee component,” he said.

His research partner on the COVID-19 trial, Chung-Ho Lin of the University of Missouri’s college of agriculture, said sewage is an important resource for assessing the health of a community.

“Wastewater never lies,” Lin said. “Give us 15 milliliters of water and we can tell many stories.”

Kansas health experts monitor COVID-19, flu and RSV trifecta as holiday season approaches

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