Kansas health experts are monitoring the COVID-19, flu and RSV trifecta as the holiday season approaches

Kansas health experts are monitoring the COVID-19, flu and RSV trifecta as the holiday season approaches

Kansas health experts are monitoring the COVID-19, flu and RSV trifecta as the holiday season approaches

TOPEKA — Doctors and public health researchers predict that a spike in COVID-19 infections during the holiday months would complicate the medical response to the rising prevalence of influenza and the tricky flu virus.

The trifecta of COVID-19, the flu, and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, could lead to escalating health problems and hospitalizations this winter as precautions like vaccinations, masks and isolation wane in 2022. In the winter of 2021-2022, Kansas saw an increase in Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19.

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

Hawkinson said there is a two- to four-week delay between infection and hospitalization for COVID-19, and he urged Kansans to get vaccinated and boosted to protect themselves against the most dangerous aspects of the virus.

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

The The latest report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment showed that 9,657 deaths in Kansas were linked to COVID-19 during the pandemic. The Kansas figure includes 2,613 deaths in 2022.

Dana Hawkinson, a physician at the University of Kansas Health System, said flu season combined with COVID-19 and the challenger flu virus could make it harder for hospitals to handle the surge in patients. (Kansas Reflector screenshot from the KU Health System Facebook channel)

Risks of re-infection

Nathan Bahr, an associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Kansas Medical Center, said there is cause for concern because of research findings showing that people who have contracted COVID-19 more than once are more susceptible to the erosion of organ function. He compared it to someone who injured their leg repeatedly and ended up with a fracture.

“The more times it happens, the more you risk losing function,” he said.

University of Washington in St. He told Louis about the analysis of the medical records of 5.4 million Veterans Administration patients suggests that people who have been infected multiple times with COVID-19 are twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who have been infected once. In addition, the researchers said that the health risks to the kidneys, lungs and gastrointestinal tract are higher in those who are infected multiple times.

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

The The CDC has created a color map which put Kansas in a “high” level and Missouri in a “moderate” flu level. 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 show.

She recommended that people get vaccinated against both the flu and COVID-19. However, there is no vaccine for RSV in the United States.

Kansas health experts are monitoring the COVID-19, flu and RSV trifecta as the holiday season approaches
Amber Schmidtke, of Saint Mary’s University in 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. (Kansas Reflector screenshot from the KU Health System Facebook channel)

Searching for sewage water

Marc Johnson, a professor of microbiology at the University of Missouri and a researcher with Missouri’s wastewater program tracking the changing nature of COVID-19, said the ability to detect new strains of the virus has improved over the past two years. The holiday season is an opportune time for the virus to spread and evolve among people indoors, he said.

“Last year and the year before, it was right now that we started seeing vines. We started to see the numbers go up,” Johnson said.

He said the rise of Delta and the emergence of Omicron caused a “tough winter.”

“Fortunately,” Johnson said, “we’re getting a lot of new variants and none of them do what Delta did or Omicron did. With Delta, this was really amazing, because we were able to see it move across the country.”

When asked if the heavy rain led to erroneous conclusions about the concentration of COVID-19 in the wastewater samples, Johnson said that the solution is also testing for the presence of caffeine. The numbers can be compared to the routine presence of the coffee component, he said.

His research partner in testing for COVID-19, Chung-Ho Lin of the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, said that sanitation is an important resource for assessing community health.

“Effluent never lies,” Lin said. “Give us 15 milliliters of water and we can tell you a lot of stories.”

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