Many respiratory viruses keep pressure on Minnesota hospitals

Many respiratory viruses keep pressure on Minnesota hospitals

The prevalence of respiratory viruses is making it difficult for Minnesotans to know the cause of their illnesses this winter — and is straining the state’s hospital capacity.

Thursday’s weekly update showed Minnesota had 8,308 inpatient hospital beds on Dec. 1. bed threshold that suggests rarity.

Preliminary infection numbers after Thanksgiving don’t tell if another wave of patients could arrive — and if flu, RSV, COVID-19 or something else could be driving it.

“It’s going to be a confusing respiratory infection season. Figuring out what makes people sick is going to be a puzzle,” Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, president of the American Medical Association, said earlier this week.

Flu-related hospitalizations in Minnesota fell from 559 in the last full week of November to 501 in the week ending Dec. 3. But even that number is high for this time of year, before the usual spike in communicable diseases during the holiday season.

Flu-like outbreaks declined in schools in the first week after the Thanksgiving holiday, but the 12 outbreaks in long-term care facilities suggest the virus is making its way into new vulnerable populations.

Viral spread was so rapid in pediatric populations this fall that it could have peaked. Hospitalizations in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area caused by RSV, a more severe respiratory virus for infants, have fallen from nearly 200 four weeks ago to about 120.

Knowing which infection is involved can be important for older adults and others at high risk of serious illness, who should get tested to receive appropriate antiviral treatments for influenza or COVID-19, Dr. Laurel Ries said. , family physician at M Health Fairview. Rice Street Clinic in Saint-Paul.

Others should call doctors or request virtual visits rather than clogging clinics and emergency rooms, said Ries, president-elect of the Minnesota Medical Association.

“If you’re young, healthy, feeling crummy but doing well, it doesn’t matter which one you have because we’re not going to treat it any different,” she said. “And at all levels of health care right now, there’s terrible access.”

COVID levels are gradually rising after stagnating this summer and fall, according to Thursday’s pandemic update. On Tuesday, the 616 patients diagnosed with COVID in Minnesota hospitals were the most since Feb. 22. Test-confirmed coronavirus infections at state clinics and centers rose to at least 900 a day last week, a rate last seen in September that excludes home test results.

Sewage sampling last week at the St. Paul Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Station found a 24% increase in viral load from the previous week, the highest readings since July.

The causes of these diseases are difficult to identify by the symptoms. The flu produces higher fevers, but so does strep throat. Loss of taste and smell are COVID signatures, but they don’t happen in all cases and have been rare this year.

“I’ve been doing this for many years, and I don’t think I’ve gotten better, and I don’t think anyone has gotten any better, realistically, to tell them apart on a clinical basis,” Dr Beth said. Thielen. , an adult and pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota Medical Center at M Health Fairview.

“There are so many diseases right now,” added Thielen. “We’re seeing more and more people coming in with multiple things,” such as RSV and influenza in the same patient, or parainfluenza or rhinovirus infections that aren’t identified as often by testing.

The state has so far identified 28 flu deaths in people with a median age of 79; none were children. The circulating virus strain A appears to be a good match for the vaccine, so doctors have been encouraging people to get vaccinated ahead of the holidays. Complete immunization usually takes place two weeks after the injection.

COVID risks remain concentrated among older adults, especially compared to fall 2021 when the delta variant exploited immunization gaps among Minnesotans and also increased deaths among young adults. The state has identified 218 COVID deaths so far in November — the highest monthly total since February — and 94% of the victims were elderly.

Sick people can reduce viral spread by staying home and especially avoiding the very old and very young, said Dr. Ashley Strobel, emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare, who specializes in pediatrics.

In mild cases, knowing which virus is involved is less important than following basic public health guidelines and home remedies, she added.

“The important thing is to recognize that you or your child have a virus so you can do what you can to take care of yourself and your child,” Strobel said. “Hydrating, reducing fever, and for small children, aspirating the nose makes a big difference.”

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