Early respiratory illness season impacting Ky. hospitals

Early respiratory illness season impacting Ky. hospitals
Published: Nov. 21, 2022 at 4:18 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2022 at 4:28 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Kentucky’s hospitals have been hit with an early respiratory illness season.

Doctors say a combination of COVID, flu and RSV is impacting their operations and it’s targeting the more vulnerable populations.

Baptist Health Lexington’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lee Dossett says cases of flu have come through the doors at Baptist Health Lexington earlier than anticipated.

“It’s probably two to four weeks ahead of where we would normally be in a typical flu season,” Dr. Dossett said.

Dr. Dossett says the people admitting themselves are among Kentucky’s most vulnerable, including children.

“Pediatric cases, the kids. Elderly folks or anybody with any chronic medical condition or immunosuppression,” Dr. Dossett said.

Lexington pediatrician Dr. Katrina Hood says many of her patients are experiencing the runny nose, cough, achiness and other symptoms associated with the flu. She thinks that prevalence stems from two years of not being able to gather so much.

“Now we have everyone doing everything normal again and we’re exposing ourselves to more people having it,” Dr. Hood said.

Dr. Steven Stack says the result is unfettered spread of disease and subsequent school closures across the commonwealth.

“High schools and grade schools across the country have closed because so many students didn’t show up due to illness,” Dr. Stack said. “that’s not public health at work. That’s disease at work.”

“So what I would recommend - number one - is to get the vaccine,” Dr. Dossett said. “It’s not 100%, but if you do get flu, it will reduce your symptoms.”

Dr. Dossett is hopeful that the early start to this flu season will lend itself to an early peak and an early end of the season as well. However, he still advises people to take steps to keep themselves and others healthy, this holiday season, even if that means stepping away from a family gathering.

“Good handwashing. If you’re sick, I would recommend not going over to your family’s for the meal,” Dr. Dossett said. “It’s okay to stay home and say you’re doing that to protect everyone.”

Dr. Dossett says they have seen a drop in flu vaccinations this year. He believes that could well be another reason why the season has kicked in sooner than usual.

Dr. Stack also emphasized that anyone over the age of 50 getting a flu shot should get an updated COVID booster as well.