As the holidays loom, Illinois is seeing a worrying rise in respiratory illnesses, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The state's already strained hospital systems are feeling the pressure, with 44 counties experiencing elevated levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations. A staggering increase of 20% in new hospitalizations from the previous week is hammering healthcare facilities, according to the IDPH.
Heat is on the respiratory front across the Land of Lincoln as flu, COVID-19, and RSV infections stack up. In the wake of these statistics, the IDPH has taken responsive measures, including the launch of a weekly Infectious Respiratory Disease Surveillance Dashboard to keep the public informed. The dashboard, expected to go live later today, will include comprehensive data on seasonal trends and hospital visits.
"As we anticipated, we are seeing an increase in respiratory viruses – including COVID-19, flu, and RSV - both in Illinois and across the nation," said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. He stresses that the surge necessitates measures such as proper ventilation, testing before visiting vulnerable individuals, good hand hygiene, and vaccinations. "These tools are especially critical for those most at-risk for severe disease including those who are over 65, immunocompromised, or have chronic medical conditions," Dr. Vohra explained in a statement highlighting the vulnerabilities of at-risk populations.
Amidst the growing health crisis, pediatric ICU capacity is a particular concern, with many areas of the state experiencing limited availability. With the burden on pediatric care increasing, the IDPH is emphasizing the importance of protective measures for children and the use of vaccines aimed specifically at younger patients. Given the limited availability of nirsevimab to protect newborns, pregnant individuals are encouraged to receive the Abrysvo vaccine to maximize protection for their babies after birth.
For Illinois residents showing symptoms or concerned about potential exposure, options to address the ongoing crisis are numerous. The state facilitates no-cost telehealth services and provides access to antiviral medications like Lagevrio and Paxlovid through various assistance programs. The IDPH stresses universal masking in healthcare settings, particularly for those treating immunocompromised patients. Residents can also obtain four free at-home COVID tests for every household via the federal government's COVID.gov website.
With the IDPH taking a multi-pronged approach to tackling the spike in respiratory infections, Dr. Vohra encourages Illinois residents to take advantage of the available resources to mitigate the spread, especially as family gatherings and indoor activities ramp up during the festive season.