RSV, COVID and flu hospitalizations in Colorado are all rising

RSV, COVID and flu hospitalizations in Colorado are all rising

More Coloradans are hospitalized with COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, than a week ago, putting the state in a potentially precarious position as the major holiday approaches.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 379 people were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 — an 18% increase from the previous week. This adds to a 47% jump the previous week and puts hospitalizations at their highest level since late February.

Although a far cry from the level reached in mid-January, when 1,676 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 during omicron’s surge, the problem is that there is less capacity in the healthcare system. to absorb an influx of patients, said Beth Carlton, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health at the Colorado School of Public Health.

In previous COVID-19 outbreaks, influenza and RSV were almost entirely absent.

“Given the combination of influenza, RSV and COVID, this could strain an already strained hospital system,” she said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment does not release the number of people currently hospitalized with influenza and RSV, a virus that commonly causes colds but can be serious in young children and older adults. . It does, however, give hospitalization rates relative to the population, which allows comparisons over time.

The RSV hospitalization rate is 280% higher than it was at last year’s peak — literally off the charts, with the state having to reformat its dashboard at least twice — and 895 people have received hospital care in the Denver area for RSV since October 1. The vast majority are children, although two long-term care facilities have reported outbreaks.

The flu hospitalization rate is higher than it has been at this point in recent years, but has not yet increased. The state has recorded 164 flu hospitalizations since Oct. 2.

Last week, Colorado Children’s Hospital sounded the alarm that it was constantly operating at or above capacity and asked the public to take precautions, especially around infants and toddlers. . There is no vaccine for RSV, but washing your hands, wearing masks and avoiding sick people can reduce your chances of catching it.

Colorado isn’t the only state where capacity is an issue: The Oregon Nurses Association has asked hospitals to delay elective procedures until demand for beds has subsided; a children’s hospital in Michigan reported that every bed was full on Friday; and three San Diego hospitals set up tents outside to tend to patients who were overflowing from their emergency rooms.

So far, there is no indication that the viruses are peaking. The state does not track RSV cases, but the percentage of positive tests continued to rise, reaching 23% in the week ending Saturday. It’s not a perfect measure, but when the positivity rate increases, it usually signals that a pathogen is spreading more widely.

As of Nov. 5, Colorado had high influenza activity, based on the percentage of outpatient care visits for flu-like illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 12.6% of COVID-19 tests came back positive in the past seven days, a slight increase from 12.3% a week earlier. The state recorded 7,556 cases in the week ending Sunday, about 1,000 more than the previous week.

More than half of Colorado’s counties are now at medium risk, based on their COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, according to the CDC. Rio Blanco County was considered high risk, with about 15 COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people and about 4% of hospital beds used by people with the virus.

All but nine counties had substantial or high community transmission, depending on their number of cases and the percentage of tests coming back positive.

Nationally, hospitalizations for COVID-19 have increased slightly since mid-October, according to data compiled by The New York Times. Over the past two weeks they have been rising in the west of the mountain, but falling in the northeast.

It’s unclear how long COVID-19 infections could continue to rise in Colorado, Carlton said. In the previous two years, the spread took off in November and then began to subside in December, but it’s unclear if the same will happen this year, she said. (In December 2021, the reprieve was short-lived, as the omicron variant arrived in the US around Thanksgiving and quickly spread like wildfire.)

“If we can count on things starting to decline in a month, I don’t know,” she said.

Recent increases in Europe only lasted a few weeks, but they showed a different mix of variants than the United States is currently experiencing, Carlton said. Populations in northern and western Europe were also more likely to receive a booster shot, according to STAT News.

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