Title: Colorado Prepares for Average Respiratory Virus Season Amidst Rising COVID-19 Hospitalizations
Subtitle: Concerns over RSV and Uncertainty Surrounding Flu Season as New Variants Emerge
The upcoming respiratory virus season in Colorado is anticipated to be relatively average as the state grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to the previous winter seasons, last year saw a moderate flu season and COVID-19 did not reach the same levels of infection. However, the major concern was the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which overcrowded children’s hospitals.
Between October 2022 and May 2023, there were 8,231 hospitalizations related to COVID-19 and 3,076 for flu across the state. While RSV hospitalizations were not recorded statewide, Denver alone reported 2,597 cases, primarily affecting children. The risk of a typical virus season has been heightened due to COVID-19, but children’s hospitals are hopeful for fewer severe RSV cases this year as some immunity has developed from last year’s outbreak.
To protect infants against RSV, monoclonal antibody shots are available. Older adults can opt for RSV vaccines, although they are not strongly recommended. In addition to these preventive measures, flu shots and COVID-19 boosters are also widely available and can be administered together safely.
Typically, the flu season peaks between December and April. While the prediction for the upcoming flu season remains uncertain, health experts recommend getting the flu shot early as a proactive measure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 52,000 deaths occur nationwide annually due to the flu.
Hospitals in Colorado may face a strain this season with three major viruses circulating simultaneously. Despite most Americans having some level of immunity against COVID-19, it is crucial to stay up to date on vaccines and boosters. The CDC is expected to prioritize certain populations for COVID-19 boosters based on their recommendations.
While COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing nationwide, they remain lower than last year. Monitoring of wastewater data in Colorado has shown a rise in viral concentrations in some areas, raising concerns about potential outbreaks. The omicron variant’s EG.5 subvariant is on the rise, but its significance does not differ significantly from previous subvariants. Another new variant, BA.2.86, is also being closely monitored, but limited information is available about it so far. The impact of the BA.2.86 variant on public health remains unclear.
As Colorado prepares for the respiratory virus season, including the flu and potential RSV outbreaks, vigilance and adherence to preventive measures are necessary to protect the community’s health and well-being. Stay informed, get vaccinated, and follow recommended guidelines to curb the spread of viruses and reduce the burden on hospitals and healthcare systems.
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