UCHealth urges Coloradans to get vaccines for respiratory illness season

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DENVER (KDVR) — You’ve probably seen the effects of the 2023-24 respiratory illness season if you haven’t felt them yourself.

Coworkers and classmates are out sick, sniffles can be heard from the backseat or someone is coughing in your meeting.

“We are officially in respiratory virus season. That includes everything you can think of from the common cold to more severe illnesses,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director of infection prevention and control for UCHealth.

Flu, COVID, RSV vaccines available

She and other health professionals urge Coloradans to vaccinate themselves with flu and COVID-19 vaccines. RSV vaccines are also available, having been newly approved in May. These vaccines take about two weeks to become fully effective, and getting one now ensures residents are protected by the time they’re gathering for the holidays, Barron said.

COVID-19 vaccines appear to now be an annual event, with this year’s vaccine focused on the XBB.1.5 variant.

At UCHealth, medical professionals are also noting an uptick in hospitalizations from respiratory illnesses. On Monday, the health organization shared that 75 patients are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 infections.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, 232 individuals were hospitalized as of Nov. 7 across the state. This is down from the week before when 257 individuals were reportedly hospitalized with COVID-19 infections.

CDPHE also reports that approximately 48% of Colorado K-12 students are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Respiratory illness data is online for Colorado

Statewide data regarding RSV and flu hospitalizations is also being updated online by CDPHE, showing 87 flu hospitalizations since Oct. 1 and 92 RSV hospitalizations in the same time period.

COVID-19 rates are far outpacing flu and RSV. Currently, there are about 2.73 people out of every 100,000 hospitalized with COVID-19. Similar comparisons for flu show only 0.48 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents and 0.38 hospitalizations for RSV patients.

Barron urges residents to stay home if they’re feeling unwell.

“Use your common sense. If you’re sick, you don’t want to give your illness to grandma and grandpa. At the end of the day, the goal is to still be able to do things and enjoy the holidays. Just do it in a way that doesn’t impact others badly,” Barron said in a release.

To protect patients, UCHealth is implementing seasonal visitor restrictions. Most patients will be allowed an unlimited number of visitors each day, but only two visitors or support persons at any time. Visitors with a cough or other signs of respiratory illness will be asked to wear a mask in the facility or wait to visit until they are healthy.

In addition, visitors under 12 years old will be restricted from visiting high-risk areas, including intensive care units, transplant locations, oncology inpatient floors and pediatric units, including the NICU.

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