Kanawha health officials give update as flu, COVID-19 and RSV impact community

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Health officials in Kanawha County are warning the public about the rise of respiratory infections ahead of families gathering for the holidays.

Dr. Steven Eshenaur, the Health Officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department (KCHD) and Dr. Mike Robie, Associate Chief Medical Officer for Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) held a press conference Monday and gave the latest update on numbers in the area dealing with flu, COVID-19 and RSV.

Eshenaur said there are nearly 7,000 new hospital admissions for the flu weekly, as of last week.

“Compared to previous months, we have not seen a rise like this in several years. This outbreak of flu is occurring earlier than what we have seen in previous years as well,” he said.

He added that Kanawha County does not have the number of citizens getting the flu vaccine that the county needs to avoid an outbreak.

According to data shown by Eshenaur, 39% of the county’s population 65 years and older have been vaccinated. No other age population is above 20% vaccinated in Kanawha County.

“We need to see more and more citizens choose to get their flu shot sooner rather than later, especially with the upcoming holidays. We want to keep our citizens safe and disease-free,” Eshenaur said.

Robie noted that there are 24 patients with influenza at CAMC Health Systems and another 19 patients with COVID-19. According to additional data shown, 21% of West Virginia’s population 65 years of age and older have received a bivalent booster.

Robie said CAMC is seeing issues with emergency room backup because of RSV – respiratory syncytial virus – with children. According to him, there were 19 RSV patients at CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital on Monday morning. Robie said typically the hospital will have 20 in-patient pediatric patients at one time on the floor.

“What we foresee coming is an increase, partially as school is out and more students are socializing with their families. Similar to what we’ve seen over the last two years with COVID, we have seen a spike after the holidays,” he said of the flu, COVID and RSV going on this winter.

Following the press conference, Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin received a flu shot.