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Here’s why you shouldn’t panic about ‘triple-demic’ in JoCo

Local health officials say a so-called “triple-demic” of respiratory ailments appears to be balancing out after a spike in hospitalizations at the start of this month. The latest: Officials with

Local health officials say a so-called “triple-demic” of respiratory ailments appears to be balancing out after a spike in hospitalizations at the start of this month.

The latest: Officials with multiple hospital systems serving Johnson County, including the University of Kansas Health System and AdventHealth, are reporting a waning impact on their facilities due to the combined effects of COVID-19, RSV and flu.

  • Officials with HCA Midwest went so far as to say that if you’re vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 and are taking other steps to ward off infection, then “you shouldn’t panic.”

Bigger picture: The recent “triple-demic” surge has prompted the return of mask recommendations in some major metropolitan areas, including New York and Los Angeles.

  • Nationally, a recent Axios/Ipsos poll found less than 30% of Americans planned to take steps to reduce their exposure to respiratory infection during the holidays.

Watch this: In a video update last week, county health office Joe LeMaster said new variants of COVID-19 are still circulating in the community and can pose a risk to the unvaccinated and people with compromised immune systems.

University of Kansas Health System: In a health update on Friday, University of Kansas medical director Dr. Dana Hawkinson reported “fairly high” COVID numbers within the University of Kansas Health System.

  • As of Friday, the hospital was treating 30 active COVID infections.
  • Three of those included patients in the hospital’s ICU, and two included patients on ventilators.
  • At the same time, Hawkinson said flu cases within the University of Kansas Health System had risen while RSV cases had declined.

In their own words: “We still have fairly high numbers as far as active infections,” he said on Friday. “Not as high as it was a few days ago, but hopefully we can stay at this level or even decrease.”

Johnson County tripledemic
Above, a COVID-19 vaccine. Image courtesy of AdventHealth Shawnee Mission.

HCA Midwest: Officials with HCA Midwest, which operates Menorah Medical Center on 119th Street and Overland Park Regional Medical Center, say patient admissions and visits to the emergency room have “stabilized” after its facilities saw recent surges of respiratory illnesses over the past several weeks.

  • In a statement provided to the Post, HCA did not offer an exact number of current patients with respiratory illnesses in HCA hospitals
  • Physicians with HCA Midwest partly attribute the spread of these illnesses during the holiday season to cold temperatures, which cause us to “huddle” indoors and thus put people in closer proximity to each other where transmission might be easier.

AdventHealth: AdventHealth chief medical officer Dr. Lisa Hays said COVID-19 cases make up the majority of respiratory illnesses AdventHealth is seeing currently.

  • She said the hospital in Merriam had 12 patients in for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, compared to four for the flu and none for RSV.
  • Children are generally still more at risk for RSV than adults, she said, while unvaccinated adults are more at risk for the flu — especially those with underlying medical conditions or over the age of 65.

In her own words: “Hopefully we’re on the backside of this trend of respiratory illnesses,” Hays said. “Especially because it appears to be a little bit of an earlier peak than we typically experience.”

Staying healthy during the holidays

Overall, health officials encourage the community to keep taking precautions to keep themselves and their family members healthy as the holidays approach this week and weekend.

  • That includes keeping up to date on vaccinations, staying home from gatherings if you have symptoms and masking when possible.

A final thought: “I consider that part of the giving spirit,” Hays said. “Making sure that you’re not doing anything to continue the spread of illness through the community.”