A virus overloading children’s hospitals in Colorado may finally be nearing its peak, but flu and COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise over the holiday weekend.
Dr. Kevin Carney, assistant chief medical officer at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said he thinks the number of hospitalizations from respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, has stopped rising, but hasn’t started falling yet.
He said that all the units of the hospital were running at capacity. RSV usually causes cold symptoms, but can be dangerous for young children and older adults.
“We are still dealing with a higher number of patients than ever before,” he added. “I don’t see a scenario in the next month or two where we don’t have very busy emergency departments and inpatient units.”
Scott Buchman, director of disease control and public health response at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said only two beds were available in pediatric intensive care units across the state as of Monday. The number has fluctuated between zero and five over the past two weeks.
Buchman said children’s hospitals are using all the space they have available, and facilities that don’t normally treat children are taking care of teenagers and slightly older children in their adult units.
“They are expanding capacity in every way … but there is extreme stress,” he said.
State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said that “RSV shows no signs of slowing,” and the number of flu and COVID-19 hospitalizations continues to rise. Between early October and November 19, 295 people in Colorado were hospitalized with the flu, which is higher than normal for this time of year.
The most recent flu data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is from November 12. At the time, Colorado had “very high” transmission, based on the percentage of outpatient health visits for flu-like illness.
As of Tuesday, 387 people had been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Colorado, a 21% increase from the previous week. Nationwide, COVID-19 hospitalizations are relatively flat, according to data compiled by The New York Times, although they are rising in other states in the West.
The state health department recorded 8,163 new cases in the week ending Sunday, almost 600 more than the previous week. About 12.2% of tests came back positive in the last seven days, slightly less than a week ago.
According to the CDC, all six Colorado counties had “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission based on their number of cases and positivity rates. The community risk level, based on cases and hospitalizations, was high in 11 counties: Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Logan, Mesa, Montezuma, Phillips, Provers, Rio Blanco, San Juan and Sedgwick.
The hospitalization rate for RSV dropped. Between the beginning of October and November 12, 1,139 people, most of them children, were hospitalized in the Denver area. The health department does not collect statewide data on RSV, which was a relatively predictable virus before the pandemic.
There is no vaccine for RSV, so prevention relies on washing hands, covering coughs, and avoiding people who are sick. Wearing a mask in public also reduces the risk of many respiratory infections.
Herlihy urged anyone who hasn’t received a flu shot and updated COVID-19 booster to do so as soon as possible. People who are at risk of serious illness should also have a plan to take antiviral drugs, he said.
Buchman said the number of flu shots given this fall now exceeds the number given by the same date in 2021, though it hasn’t reached 2020 levels. About 21% of eligible people have received one of the new COVID-19 boosters, although the rate is higher for people over 65.
The first real-world data on the new boosters suggest they are not a perfect shield, but do provide some additional protection. Different groups who had the new shot doses were anywhere from 28% to 56% less likely than people who had the old shots to test positive for the virus between mid-September and Nov. 11, according to one study. Issued accordingly. CDC. The effect was greater in younger people and in those who were at least eight months out from their last dose of the original formulation.
The study was based on data from community testing sites and did not assess the odds of severe disease. It’s also unclear how well the shots will work against the new subvariants that replaced BA.4 and BA.5, the versions of the virus they were meant to block.
The CDC estimates that BA.5 now accounts for about 24% of COVID-19 cases, and BA.4 only accounts for about 0.1%. The BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 variants, which are usually grouped together because they differ by only one mutation, are now known to cause about half of cases. All variants now circulating are in the Omicron family.
Bq.1.1 and Bq.1 appear to be more infectious and better able to evade the immune system than other types, although there is no indication that they are more serious, Herlihy said.
Because the variants are more prevalent, it appears that some antibody-based treatments do not work well against them. While antiviral treatments like Paxlovid still work, losing those drugs is a blow to people with compromised immune systems, some of whom relied on an antibody cocktail called Evushield as they mount their own defenses after vaccination. Couldn’t
Carney said people don’t need to skip Thanksgiving gatherings altogether, but they need to consider the risk of spreading the virus to those who are more vulnerable, including young children. He said families would do well to talk about who might be vulnerable and what risks they are comfortable with.
“It’s better to talk about it in advance than to wait and see what happens,” he said.
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