June 20, 2024

IDPH: Health care facilities should ‘step up’ mitigation against increasing respiratory viruses

IDPH: RSV causing a ‘heavy burden’ on pediatric hospitals; masking recommended at hospitals

FILE - Boxes of KN95 protective masks are stacked together before being distributed to students at Camden High School in Camden, N.J., Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Tuesday, April 26, 2022,  three out of every four U.S. children have been infected with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health said it issued a health alert to hospitals, long-term care facilities and local health departments to increase mitigation measures including masking and screening to minimize an increasing spread of respiratory viruses.

“With 51 counties, or half the counties in Illinois, now at a medium or high level for COVID-19 hospitalizations, the Illinois Department of Public Health is advising health care facilities to step up mitigation efforts to minimize the spread of respiratory viruses,” according to a news release from IDPH issued Thursday.

IDPH said supports the CDC’s recommendation of facilitywide masking at health care facilities that are in counties rated at high level for COVID-19 hospitalizations or per facility discretion in areas where data shows elevated transmission of other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV, even if COVID-19 hospitalization levels are not high in those areas.

The number of counties listed at a high level for COVID-19 hospitalizations has doubled from five to 10 Illinois counties in the center of the state including Sangamon, according to the CDC’s national COVID Data Tracker, as of the week ending Dec. 2. That means they have seen more than 20 COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 population in the last week. Another 41 counties are at medium level for COVID-19 hospitalizations during the period, with between 10 and 20 COVID hospitalizations per 100,000.

Statewide, 1,225 new COVID-19 hospitalizations were reported, up 22% over the previous week. IDPH also tracks ED visits and hospitalizations for Flu and RSV. RSV is causing a heavy burden of pediatric hospitalizations and the percent of lab tests that are positive for RSV have been rising for 10 consecutive weeks. COVID-19 is causing the most hospitalizations among respiratory viruses, however hospitalizations are also rising steadily for flu and RSV. The percent of positive lab tests for flu and COVID-19 have been rising for three consecutive weeks.

“With the alarming rise in respiratory viruses we are seeing across the state and the country, IDPH is recommending health care facilities take precautions to reduce the spread of these viruses and protect their patients, staffs and visitors,” IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said in a news release. “We are most concerned with health care facilities in counties with elevated respiratory virus transmission and hospitalization levels and recommend masking in patient care areas, especially in emergency departments and areas caring for patients who are immunocompromised.”

Under the guidance distributed Thursday, healthcare facilities are advised to follow CDC guidance and implement facilitywide masking in counties that have high levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations. In addition, in counties with increased incidence of respiratory illness in the community, hospitals are advised to screen staff and visitors for symptoms of respiratory viruses; to remind visitors entering patient rooms about hand hygiene and cough etiquette; and to encourage those with respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough or sore throat to defer non-urgent hospital visits and get tested for respiratory viruses before in-person visits or use telehealth services if possible.

Last week IDPH launched a new, weekly Infectious Respiratory Disease Surveillance Dashboard that will be updated weekly on Fridays. This report provides the public the latest data on hospital visits, seasonal trends, lab test positivity and demographic data.

Those interested can track data at the county level on a new national respiratory virus dashboard launched by the CDC this fall that allows the public to view weekly updates on the levels of COVID-19, flu and RSV.

Ahead of the holidays, IDPH is advising Illinois residents to get fully protected with all of the vaccinations they are eligible for, including COVID-19, flu and RSV.

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network

Shaw Local News Network provides local news throughout northern Illinois