Sunday, March 10, 2024

Emergency-room visits for respiratory illness keep declining, but flu activity remains elevated, and hospital admissions for it are up

State Department for Public Health graphs, adapted by Kentucky Health News
By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Kentucky's influenza levels remain elevated and hospitalizations for respiratory illness remain high, even though emergency-department visits for respiratory illness have stayed on a rough plateau since mid-January, according to the state Department for Public Health.

In the week ended March 2, Kentucky saw a 13% drop in emergency-department visits for respiratory illness, to 3,175. Flu continues to be the driver for this high number.

Hospitalizations for flu increased slightly, but overall admissions for the three respiratory diseases tracked by the state dropped 7%, to 491. In addition to flu, the state tracks Covid-19 respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Letcher County is the only Kentucky county to have a high rate of Covid-19 hospital admissions in the week ended March 2, with 23.2 admissions per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Sixteen Kentucky counties had a hospital-admission rate between 10 and 19.9 per 100,000 people, considered "medium" by the CDC. That included Pike County, just north of Letcher. The others are in Western Kentucky: Union, Ohio, McLean, McCracken, Marshall, Lyon, Livingston, Hickman, Henderson, Hancock, Graves, Daviess, Crittenden, Carlisle and Ballard counties. 

For two weeks in a row, ED visits for respiratory illness have declined in children aged 5 to 17, dropping to 723 in the week ended March 2. Like adults, these visits have been driven by the flu. This age group had 14 hospital admissions in the week, 12 for flu and two for Covid-19. 

The state reported 3,603 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in the week ended March 2 and 1,983 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19. Both of these numbers have dropped for three weeks in a row. 

Since the flu season began in October, the state has recorded 414 Covid-19 deaths and 97 flu deaths, 75 of the latter since the first week of January. One Covid-19 victim and one flu victim have been children.

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