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 an increase in COVID-19 infections during the holiday months would complicate the medical response to the increasing 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 such as vaccinations, masking and isolation wane throughout 2022. In the winter of 2021-2022, Kansas experienced increase in Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19.

“We’re just kind of 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 lag between infection and hospitalization for COVID-19 and urged Kansans to get vaccinated and boosted to protect themselves against the most dangerous aspects of the virus.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 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 failed. Eighteen counties in Kansas have reported more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, with 171,000 cases in Johnson County and 164,000 in Sedgwick County, accounting for 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.

Kansas health experts are monitoring the COVID-19, flu and RSV trifecta as the holiday season approaches
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 cope with 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 results showing that people who have had multiple bouts of COVID-19 were more susceptible to the erosion of organ function. He compared it to someone who injured their leg repeatedly and ended up breaking it.

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

Washington University in St. He tells Louis to analyze the medical records of 5.4 million Veterans Administration patients suggested that people who contracted COVID-19 more than once were twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to those who contracted the virus once. In addition, the researchers said that health risks to the kidneys, lungs and gastrointestinal system were higher among those who were infected multiple times.

Amber Schmidtke, dean of natural sciences and mathematics at Saint Mary’s University in Leavenworth, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked Kansas in the second-highest of five categories for the incidence of flu 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-coded 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 both the flu shot and the COVID-19 booster. However, there is no vaccine for RSV in the United States.

Amber Schmidtke, chair of the department of life sciences at 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 has moderate levels of fever, cough and sore throat symptoms.  (Kansas Reflector screenshot from the KU Health System Facebook channel)
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)

Purification of sewage water

Marc Johnson, a professor of microbiology at the University of Missouri and a researcher with the Missouri Wastewater Program to track the changing nature of COVID-19, said the ability to detect emerging strains of the virus has been perfected over the past two years. The holiday season is a favorable time for the virus to spread and develop among people in closed spaces, he said.

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

He said the Delta wave and the emergence of Omicron produced a “severe winter.”

“Fortunately,” Johnson said, “we’re getting a lot of new variants and none of them do what Delta did or what Omicron did. With Delta, this was really amazing, because we could see it moving 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 to test for the presence of caffeine. The figures are comparable 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, he said that sewage is an important resource for assessing the health of a community.

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

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