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Kittson County COVID cases trending up, Flu and respiratory illness up too


Content Providers(s): CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS Photo Credit: Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS

Kittson County COVID cases are trending up, according to Kittson County Public Health Director Jeanna Kujava. The omicron variant has not been confirmed in the county yet, as of December 31, 2021, but given the variant’s high transmissibility and current case rates, Kujava assumes that it is here.

Kujava highlighted the current county case rate numbers, omicron, and current county vaccination rates, and reminded people of vaccination opportunities.

Based on numbers, the positive weekly case count in Kittson County during the week of Christmas was 21 confirmed/probable cases, not reflecting any completed at home tests, as they don’t have to be reported. Kujava said this continues to represent a trend up.

She pointed to various reasons for this trend. She highlighted additional vaccine breakthrough cases, individuals not being fully vaccinated, and easier transmission with the omicron variant circulating as reasons for the recent trend.

“I’m assuming that it’s here. I have not been able to find data to confirm that,” Kujava said about omicron. “But because of the high transmissibility of the virus and how we are global people, we do a lot of traveling and that contributes to spread. And so that’s contributing to an increase in cases.”

Within the CDC Health and Human Services Region Five— one that covers Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio— graphs starting on December 5 have shown a doubling in cases every week, according to Kujava. Speaking on December 31, Kujava added how data wasn’t even out yet for the current week.

“It’s (omicron) just surpassing the delta variant very obviously,” Kujava said, “so I guess I use that as kind of an indicator… (that) it can’t hardly not be here.”

According to data as of December 25, the omicron variant made up 40 to 80% of the variants going around in Region Five, according to Kujava.

“I just see the omicron variant really dominating our region,” Kujava said.

As for what she knows about omicron so far, she said it spreads at a “highly significant” rate— more than the delta variant— with little amount of the virus. This omicron variant is producing disease symptoms earlier compared to the delta variant.

“Most significantly is that it just takes less of the virus to show those symptoms. So that’s, again, is attributing to the transmission and (it’s) just kind of a concern because you have those asymptomatic people that don’t even know they have it and they’re transmitting it,” Kujava said. “… It’s harder to manage those that are infected with it… and then preventing them from exposing others because they didn’t even know they had it.”

Within instances where people gather, travel, or are in close proximity to others, it doesn’t take much for the virus to spread, Kujava said. Despite its high transmissibility, it’s not causing more serious outcomes compared to the delta variant.

“They are seeing the disease process of it isn’t showing to be any more detrimental up to this point,” Kujava said. “I know they are continuing to do the research, but it’s not causing any more significant hospitalizations and deaths than the delta at this point.”

Besides COVID, the county is also witnessing an increase in something else.

“We are seeing an increase in the seasonal influenza and respiratory illnesses as well,” Kujava said. “That’s kind of compiling all of the situation and kind of can make it a little more complex.”

Seasonal flu rates are increasing earlier this winter— a concern for Kujava. Usually February and March have been the peak time for flu cases.

“Having the symptoms look so similar to COVID and other respiratory illnesses,” Kujava said, “… (it) concerns me just to see that all coming together at the same time.”

Kujava provided some upcoming public health vaccination opportunities in January. She will be providing the pediatric Pfizer COVID vaccine (ages 5 to 11) in Karlstad from 3 to 5 pm on January 12. At the public health office in Hallock, she will be administering the Moderna vaccine from 8:30 am to 2 pm on January 14. Also in Hallock, she will be offering the Moderna vaccine from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm on January 21. Finally, in Karlstad, she will be providing the Moderna vaccine from 3 to 5 pm on January 26.

People can call hospital registration at 218-843-3612 to schedule appointments for the public health clinics occurring around the county. Depending on what one is looking for, hospital registration will guide him or her to one of the public health clinics.

Kittson Healthcare clinics— in Karlstad and Hallock— continue to also provide the pediatric Pfizer vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 years and older, the COVID booster vaccine, and the flu vaccine.

To see the complete story, read the January 6 issue of the North Star News in print or online.

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