Respiratory illness in Ky. resurged in the week ended Feb. 10, with 5-to-17-year-olds having an 84% jump in ED visits for the flu

Published 9:32 am Monday, February 19, 2024

By Melissa Patrick, Kentucky Health News

After weeks of overall decline, three major respiratory illnesses increased in Kentucky during the week ended Feb. 10, with children between the ages of 5 and 17 getting hit hard by influenza.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health‘s weekly report says flu and Covid-19 activity is elevated and increasing and hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses are considered high.

Emergency-department visits for the three respiratory viruses tracked by the state – flu, Covid-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – increased nearly 16% in the week ended Feb. 10, to 3,583.

This increase was driven by a 16% increase in visits for flu, to 2,745, and a 26% increase in Covid-19 visits, to 740. RSV visits dropped 26%, to 98.

In the same week, Kentucky hospital admissions for the respiratory diseases increased 6% from the previous week, to 509. Flu was the only one of the tracked viruses to see an increase in hospital admissions in the week ended Feb. 10, with a 17% increase to 288. Covid-19 and RSV admissions had slight drops.

Four northeastern Kentucky counties had high rates of Covid-19 hospital admissions in the week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which considers high to be 20 or more admissions per 100,000 residents. Rowan, Morgan, Menifee and Elliott counties had 27 Covid-19 admissions per 100,000.

Ten Kentucky counties had admission rates between 10 and 19.9 Covid-19 admissions per 100,000, a rate the CDC considers “medium.” They were Pike County, in far Eastern Kentucky, and McCracken, Marshall, Lyon, Livingston, Hickman, Graves, Crittenden, Carlisle, and Ballard counties, in far Western Kentucky.

Children between the ages of 5-17 saw an 84% jump in emergency-department visits for respiratory illness in the week ended Feb. 10, to 970. This was driven by flu-related visits, which were up 82% over the previous week, to 876. Hospital visits for this age group dropped to 15 in that week, down from 22 the prior week.

In the week ended Feb. 10, the state reported 3,912 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu, up 17% from the prior week. It reported 2,459 laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19, up 16% from the week prior.

Since the respiratory-illness season began the first week in October, 327 Kentuckians have died from Covid-19, and 28 from the flu, the health department says. One Covid-19 victim and one flu victim have been children.