KCUR: Kansas City hospitals say flu and RSV cases are getting worse, even though they have vaccines
By Noah Taborda
Cases of three respiratory illnesses are starting to creep up in Kansas City and hospitals are wary of another “tripledemic” as the weather gets colder and people travel for the holidays.
Last year, following an unusually early surge in Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, doctors were left to grapple with the rising case numbers and spikes of COVID-19 and influenza at the same time. The illnesses left hospital emergency rooms bogged down, with few beds available to patients, and led to an increased workload for staff.
This year, RSV and influenza case numbers are trending back toward previous baselines, and COVID-19 numbers have held relatively steady. But Shaffer said this is also the time of year when those numbers start to creep up.
This year is the first when there are vaccines available for all three of these illnesses. But an RSV vaccine intended for infants younger than 8 months old – who are among those most at risk of infection — has been in short supply.
Children’s Mercy Kansas City does have the vaccine, but with limited supply has to make some tough choices.
“The federal bodies that recommend this immunization along with the American Academy of Pediatrics have kind of created guidelines around how to prioritize highest risk infants during this time of the shortage,” said Angela Myers, division director of Infectious Diseases at Children's Mercy Kansas City. “We are following those guidelines to try to target the infants that are at highest risk of having severe RSV infection.”
Myers doesn’t expect a sufficient supply of this vaccine during the 2023-24 respiratory illness season, but is optimistic there will be enough next year. There is also an RSV vaccine that's available for pregnant people between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, which can help prevent severe cases, and one for adults over 60 years old.
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