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Carroll County Times
Carroll County News

Cases of COVID and flu surge in Carroll County as health officials urge everyone to get vaccinated

Respiratory illnesses, including flu and COVID-19, are on the rise again in Carroll County, leading health care officials to issue a plea for residents to take measures to protect themselves.

Though the impact of Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, is starting to decrease, flu cases are increasing rapidly in Maryland, according to the county health department, and COVID cases are also on the rise.

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Both the flu and COVID can cause serious illness and death, especially in vulnerable populations, the county health department states on its website.

The Carroll County Health Department and Carroll Hospital, a Lifebridge Health Center, issued a joint news release asking residents to take precautions to avoid contracting COVID and influenza, as both are putting a strain on the local health care system.

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“The best way to protect yourself is to get your flu vaccine and your bivalent COVID-19 booster,” Sue Doyle, health officer for Carroll County, stated in a news release. “This is especially important for people at high risk of serious illness from respiratory viruses — older adults, younger children, pregnant women and people with other health conditions.

“You can get your flu shot and COVID booster at the same time,” Doyle said. “Flu shots, which so far seem to be a good match for circulating flu strains, are recommended for people 6 months and up, and the bivalent COVID vaccine that is updated to better match new Omicron variants is now approved for this age group as well.”

Total community cases in the county have increased by 219 since Nov. 23, and total community deaths from COVID have increased by two during the same time period, not including cases in congregate living facilities. Hospitalizations due to COVID have increased by 16 since Nov. 23.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses COVID case data and impacts on the health care system to classify communities throughout the nation as low, medium and high, according to its website. COVID levels help individuals and communities decide which prevention actions to take based on the latest information.

Carroll County is currently at a medium COVID-19 community level, and a high transmission level, according to CDC guidance, the health department website states.

The CDC recommends that when a county is medium and high, that people wear a mask when indoors in public situations, according to its website. If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for getting very sick, consider self-testing to detect infection before contact, and consider wearing a high-quality mask when indoors with them.”

As of Dec. 12, the most recent numbers available from the Maryland Department of Health, COVID cases in Carroll County are increasing; at-home testing is not included in the data. The county’s COVID positivity rate is 15.19%, which is a jump from 8.1% the previous week. For the most up-to-date numbers, go to https://cchd.maryland.gov/carroll-county-md-cases.

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The health department continues to provide COVID booster shots, at 290 South Center St., in Westminster. For more information and clinic registration, go to https://cchd.maryland.gov/registration-links.

The Maryland Health Department website shows that 125,454 (74.5%) people are fully vaccinated against COVID in Carroll County.

“It’s important that people at high risk of serious illness talk to their doctor right away if they have the flu or COVID,” Dr. Robert Wack, deputy health officer for Carroll County stated in the news release. “Antivirals can help prevent more serious illness, but timing is critical, as they are more effective when soon after you get sick.”

Most people with respiratory illnesses can recover at home, with extra fluids, rest, and over-the-counter medications.

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Meanwhile, the emergency room at Carroll Hospital is treating “high numbers” of people with respiratory illnesses.

“Our emergency department is open 24/7/365, and we never turn anyone away,” Dr. Mark Olszyk, the hospital’s chief medical officer stated. “We do see everyone in order of the severity of their condition. Someone with a condition that could be seen by a primary care provider or at Urgent Care may have an extended wait time, especially when lots of other people are also coming the ED. No one likes to wait, and we hate to inconvenience anyone. We aim to deliver the best, most personalized care; but wait times do increase with larger crowds and the amount of time we can spend with each patient decreases. A visit to the ED can also have the unintended side effect of exposing yourself and your family to other contagious diseases.”

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People should go to the emergency room for the following respiratory symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing. Children may have flared nostrils or the muscles between their ribs may move, or they may start breathing very fast.
  • Blue skin, especially the lips or around the fingernails.
  • Trouble staying awake and lethargy.
  • High fever.
  • Dehydration, not drinking enough fluids, and not urinating often.
  • Quickly worsening or new severe symptoms.

Health officials recommend that people wash their hands often, and clean frequently touched surfaces, the news release states. Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home if you are sick.

Mask when symptomatic, exposed, or around people of higher risk, and wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces. Test for COVID when sick or exposed.

The health department offers free COVID test kits at Carroll County Public Library branches.

For more information on reducing the spread of respiratory illness as well as links to resources, and data, go to https://cchd.maryland.gov/respiratory-illnesses.


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