So far, all indications point to a typical respiratory virus season in Colorado. However, there are three primary worries rather than two, which may cause considerable stress in the healthcare system.

The flu season was mild last year, and while COVID-19 caused a considerable number of hospitalizations, it did not cause massive outbreaks in the first two winters of the pandemic. However, the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, made a reappearance, increasing overcrowding in pediatric hospitals and prompting measures similar to those used to treat teens in adults.

From October 2022 to May 2023, a total of 8,231 persons were hospitalized in Colorado owing to COVID-19, with 3,076 admitted for flu-related reasons. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) does not collect statewide data on hospital admissions, although there were 2,597 such admissions in the Denver region alone, with the majority of them being children.

Beth Carlton, Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Colorado School of Public Health, stated that in the mix with COVID-19, a common virus is now riskier than before the pandemic.

“We hope that (COVID-19) will have a reduced impact, like the flu, but it still has a significant impact,” they stated.

Dr. Sam Dominguez, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, remarked that, unlike last year, they have not observed a significant number of children falling ill with respiratory-related viruses in their clinics during the summer. He expressed hope that there will be no rebound of severe RSV cases from the previous year, as many youngsters who were not infected during the pandemic’s early years got the virus last year and have gained some immunity.

“A normal year still means a lot of (Respiratory Syncytial Virus-associated hospitalization,” they noted. “It won’t just be terrific.”

Every year, between 60,000 and 160,000 adults are hospitalized in the United States for RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus), with 6,000 to 10,000 people dying. This virus is also more severe in infants and children, with 58,000 to 80,000 children under the age of five hospitalized to hospitals each year.

Unlike in 2022, parents can obtain their children a monoclonal antibody shot this year, according to Dominguez. Because their airways are so small, any swelling can restrict their breathing, children are the most vulnerable to severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). He said that there are some concerns about whether the vaccines will reach children before the widespread spread of RSV, but this will be the first season in which children can be vaccinated against COVID-19, flu, and RSV.

“This is truly incredible news,” they exclaimed. “There are three major diseases in children for which we have solutions.”

RSV, an antibody product, reduces the probability of severe cases requiring medical attention by about 70%. It is advised for all children under the age of eight months, as well as those between the ages of eight and nineteen months who are at a higher risk of serious illness.

In this weather, adults aged 60 and up have choices for protecting themselves from COVID-19. Two vaccines were approved this year, but not all insurance plans pay the approximately $300 cost. Shots are more than 80% effective in avoiding symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. However, the disease control and prevention vaccination advisory group did not directly prescribe them, instead recommended that older persons examine the hazards of COVID-19. Rare side effects may occur.

During the eighth month of pregnancy, it is recommended that one of two vaccines be administered to older adults. While the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is unlikely to cause severe illness during pregnancy, the antibodies produced by the mother can provide protection to the baby in the first few months of life. In studies, the shot has provided strong protection for at least six months, although the group that received the vaccine had a slightly higher risk of early birth compared to the placebo group. However, it is unclear whether this represents a real risk or is merely a statistical noise.

It’s important to consult with your healthcare provider for more information and guidance on these vaccines during pregnancy. Your doctor can provide you with personalized advice based on your specific circumstances and medical history. Your health and the health of your baby are of utmost importance, and decisions regarding vaccinations should be made with the guidance of medical professionals who are knowledgeable about your unique situation

Flu shots will be available this week, and new COVID-19 boosters targeting the XBB.1.5 variety should be available by the end of September. The CDC states that taking both the COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time is safe. At this time, there is insufficient data to combine the RV shot in the same mix. Stay tuned for further information!

Usually, the flu season peaks in December and lasts until April, although it started earlier and ended last year.

Dr. Michelle Barron, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at UC Health, stated that while they have seen isolated cases of the flu in recent weeks, the flu season has not yet officially begun. She indicated that if the US follows the southern hemisphere’s pattern, we could see considerable flu activity towards the end of October or the beginning of November. Because Australia and other southern hemisphere countries encounter flu during the winter months, they can provide some insight into the future flu season.

Nonetheless, according to Barron, it’s a good idea to get your flu shot as soon as possible so you may be prepared if the season begins sooner than planned. The CDC recommends that everybody aged 6 months and up receive a flu vaccine unless they have had a severe allergic reaction to it in the past.

“The predictions are just that, predictions,” she explained.

According to the CDC, between 140,000 and 710,000 people are hospitalized for flu each year, with 12,000 to 52,000 dying depending on the severity of the season.

On a press teleconference Thursday, CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen stated that the Southern Hemisphere respiratory season did not raise any red flags, despite the fact that it began a little early. Despite this, hospitals may be more stressed than in pre-pandemic years due to the presence of three major viruses, she warned.

“What we’ve seen so far has been a fairly typical season,” she explained. “It doesn’t guarantee that’s what we’ll see here.”

According to Cohen, around 97% of Americans have been vaccinated, have survived a COVID-19 infection, or have both, making them less prone to severe results. However, when protection fades and new types emerge, she advises individuals to stay up to date on their vaccinations and to determine whether they qualify for antiviral therapy if they become ill.

The CDC has not yet issued guidelines on who should receive a COVID-19 booster this fall, but experts believe they will prioritize those over 65, those with chronic diseases, pregnant women, and those with impaired immune systems.

People who did not have a booster shot last year can still get one in a few weeks. The existing boosters are still accessible, but most individuals are unlikely to obtain one now because a better-targeted type is on the way, according to Cohen.

This year, the federal government will not cover the majority of COVID-19 vaccines, but insurance companies will. According to Politico, a federal program to provide free boosters to uninsured people will not go live until October, though the Biden administration is attempting to push that date back to mid-September.

Over the past week, there has been a 19% increase in the number of people admitted to hospitals with COVID-19 across the country. However, they are still only about half of what they were compared to the previous year. In Colorado, as of August 29th, 112 people were hospitalized, which is an increase over the past two weeks, but it’s still less than 195 at the end of August 2022.

Carlton stated that although hospitals are no longer testing everyone, which could potentially reduce the number of admissions, they are still catching people with respiratory symptoms.

He said, “We are beginning to see growth, but fortunately, we are starting from a very low base.”

Data from the State Health Department’s wastewater surveillance revealed that viral density was increasing in 23 regions, decreasing in 16, and remaining stable in 14. There was insufficient data to determine the transmission rate in the remaining 15. Although the number of cases and positivity rates are now less reliable than before, both trends have been on the rise since mid-July.

Nationwide, no variant is considered effective, although the EG.5 subvariant of Omicron is gaining some prominence. According to the most recent estimates by the CDC, it has been found to be responsible for nearly 22% of recent infections. However, it doesn’t appear to be significantly different from the previous Omicron subvariants.

“Keeping an eye on another new variant, BA.2.86, related to the virus,” Carlton said. He added that not much is known about this specific version yet, save that it appears to be particularly adept at avoiding the immune system, and it has enough differences to have its own Greek letter classification. All of the remaining varieties are descended from Omicron.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *