Connecticut reports 3 flu and RSV deaths, urges vaccinations before the holidays
Connecticut reported three deaths from the flu and RSV on Thursday – the first fatalities of the winter season.
Now, the push is on to get people vaccinated in time for the holidays.
FIRST DEATHS OF SEASON
The flu death occurred in Middlesex County, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Safety. Two RSV deaths were reported in New Haven and Hartford counties. All of the fatalities were in patients over 60 years old.
“This is a tragic reminder that the 2023-24 respiratory viral disease season is already an active one,” said DPH commissioner, Dr. Manisha Juthani.
RSV stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus. In most people, symptoms are similar to a common cold. But for the very old and the very young, the lower respiratory infection can be deadly.
“We see every year hospitalizations, mortality, kids ending up on respirators from RSV,” said Dr. Nikki Gorman with Village Pediatrics in Westport. “Because their airways are not as developed. Their immune systems are not as developed.”
And it’s not just deaths. Juthani said Connecticut has already seen 730 RSV cases this season, and 208 influenza infections.
HOLIDAY VACCINATION PUSH
The upcoming holidays are bringing a triple threat – RSV, influenza and COVID-19 – all circulating at the same time. That's why Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz went before the cameras to get her flu shot Thursday morning.
“With Thanksgiving just two weeks away, we wanted to let folks know that it's time to get your seasonal shots,” she told reporters.
Anyone over 6 months old is eligible for flu and COVID-19 shots. As for RSV, only seniors, newborns and certain expectant mothers can get inoculated.
If you don’t have access to a doctor or pharmacy, DPH and most local health departments offer immunization clinics.
“Reach out to your local health department,” said East Hartford health director Lawrence Burnsed. “Call and ask to speak to the public health nurse. They can certainly help answer your questions.”
You can also find vaccine providers here.
NEW RSV PROTECTION FOR BABIES
Two new drugs are finally offering RSV protection for newborns.
A brand-new vaccine called Abrysvo is available for mothers before they give birth. It passes antibodies on to the fetus. The Centers for Disease Control recommends Abrysvo for patients who are 32-36 weeks pregnant during peak RSV season (September-January).
Abrysvo is also available to patients 60 years and older.
Babies that are already born can receive Beyfortus, a newly approved immune therapy.
“That's amazing,” said Gorman. “We've been waiting for my entire career, which is almost 25 years, for this vaccine.”
Amid high demand for the new drugs, physicians are reporting shortages of Beyfortus. Juthani said Connecticut has ample supply at the moment, with additional doses expected from the CDC throughout the winter.
“Right now, we have plenty of access for newborns for that,” she said. “However, over the course of the season, we may see supply dwindle over time.”
COVID STILL SPREADING
And then there’s COVID-19.
Although the pandemic is officially over, Connecticut reported 67 deaths in October alone. Juthani urged people to get an updated booster, even if they recently had the virus.
“Some people may have had COVID when we had a little bit of a bump later in the summer,” she said. “If you've been past your COVID diagnosis for over a month, that certainly makes you eligible for a vaccine. But certainly here at three months or so since you had COVID, I would recommend getting it at this point in time.”
The current booster, released this fall, protects against the new XBB.1.5 and BA.2.86 omicron sub-variants.