Health officials see uptick in flu, declines in RSV and COVID

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By Randi Pierce | Staff Writer

The region and nation continue to deal with a trio of respiratory illnesses, with influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continuing to circulate.

San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) Communications Director Megan Graham indicated RSV and COVID are declining across the state, while there was a sharp increase in local flu cases recently.

Pagosa Springs Medical Center reported Monday that the medical center is experiencing a high volume of patients with viral illness.

SJBPH’s influenza surveillance indicates that, for the week ending Dec. 17, 31.1 percent of flu tests in Archuleta and La Plata counties came back positive, up from 26 percent for the week ending Dec. 10.

The CDC reports a 25.4 percent positivity rate for the week ending Dec. 10.

For the week ending Dec. 10, the CDC reported that “Seasonal influenza activity remains high but appears to be declining in some areas.”

So far this season, Graham reported, there has been one flu outbreak and 13 hospitalizations within SJBPH’s service area.

RSV is not a reportable disease locally, limiting the amount of local information available, though Graham reported that hospitalizations for RSV are declining statewide.

Graham noted that RSV outbreaks are reportable statewide, with SJBPH’s service area having 13 RSV outbreaks since October and 23 hospitalizations.

COVID

COVID is trending down locally and statewide, according to Graham, and hospitalizations locally and statewide are showing a plateau or downward trend.

As of Dec. 15, Archuleta County was in Community Level medium on the CDC Community Levels for COVID-19.

The CDC’s Community Levels are updated each Thursday, with the CDC website explaining the agency looks at the combination of three metrics — new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past seven days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days — to determine the COVID-19 Community Level. Hospital data is determined regionally.

As of Dec. 15, the CDC reports 16.9 new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population, 6.5 percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with confirmed COVID-19 and a new case rate of 42.77 per 100,000 people.

COVID-19 treatments for people who currently have mild to moderate symptoms and are not in the hospital for COVID-19, but who are at high risk of getting very sick, continue to be available.

For more information on those treatment options or the state’s telehealth program, visit: https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-treatments/ or covid19.colorado.gov/treatments.

At-home COVID tests and KN95 masks are available for free at the SJBPH offices in both Durango and Pagosa Springs.

More information on testing can be found at https://sjbpublichealth.org/testing/. 

CDC expands omicron booster eligibility to ages 6 months to 5 years

The COVID-19 omicron booster vaccine is now available for children ages 6 months to 5 years.

The CDC approved the use of Pfizer bivalent COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 months through 4 years, and Moderna bivalent COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 months through 5 years.

“While COVID-19 cases have leveled or declined statewide and in Archuleta and La Plata counties in recent weeks, holiday gatherings provide an opportunity for the virus to circulate,” a SJBPH press release states. 

According to the press release, children in this age group are recommended to receive an omicron vaccine after receiving two doses of the original COVID-19 vaccines. The omicron vaccine must be the same brand as the vaccines they previously received.

Children 6 months through 5 years who have completed the two-dose Moderna primary vaccine series may receive a single Moderna omicron dose at least two months after their primary series completion.

Children 6 months through 4 years who have either not started or completed the three-dose Pfizer primary vaccine series may receive a single Pfizer omicron dose as the third dose in the Pfizer primary series.

Children 6 months through 4 years who already received the three-dose Pfizer primary vaccine series are not recommended to receive the omicron vaccine at this time. Data to support giving an omicron dose to this subset of children are expected in January

People ages 5 and older who have received their primary COVID-19 vaccine doses and any number of booster doses should also receive an omicron dose at least two months after completing their primary series or their most recent dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. People who recently had COVID-19 may wait up to three months after testing positive or first started feeling symptoms before scheduling an omicron booster. Talk to your child’s pediatrician for guidance.

The COVID-19 omicron booster, including for children ages 6 months to 5 years, is available locally through medical providers, SJBPH clinics and at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s mobile vaccine clinics held throughout the region. To find a vaccine, contact your medical provider or pharmacy, visit vaccines.gov, call Colorado’s Vaccine Hotline (877-268-2926) or visit https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/. 

randi@pagosasun.com