UIHC experts push for vaccination in the face of increasing rates of delta variants
After experiencing a drop in cases, rates of COVID-19 in Johnson County are rising, spurred by the highly contagious and transmissible delta variant.
In response to this wave, healthcare workers are calling on the public to get vaccinated, avoid crowds and wear masks to reduce the number of people in the intensive care unit.
As of Monday, the University of Iowa health system had 26 adults and five children with COVID-19, bringing the total number of hospital patients to 802 since Jan.4, according to the UIHC.
In recent weeks, Johnson County has gone from a moderate to high transmission level of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The delta variant poses more of a threat than other strains of COVID-19 because of how quickly it multiplies, said Theresa Brennan, chief medical officer of the UIHC.
“The delta variant is more transmissible because it adheres more aggressively to human cells,” Brennan said. “It replicates or multiplies much faster than the original virus, so people can infect people with more copies of the virus.”
To keep people safe, Brennan said health experts are calling on people to return to the healthy practices people demonstrated at the start of the pandemic.
“Masking works against COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. Avoiding the crowds and maintaining the distance is also very important, ”said Brennan. “The biggest risk now is for people who are not vaccinated, but anyone can get it. “
As the Iowans prepare for flu and allergy season, people are experiencing more symptoms similar to COVID-19.
Brennan said it is important for people to get tested as soon as they notice symptoms, even if they are vaccinated.
“People who have been vaccinated think they are impenetrable, but we have seen groundbreaking cases where people have been infected,” she said. “Everyone, including those who have been vaccinated, should be concerned about the symptoms of COVID-19. “
Almost 95% of people with COVID-19 in hospital have the delta variant, said Kevin Doerschug, medical director of the intensive medical care unit.
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The UIHC uses infusions of monoclonal antibodies for the delta variant that the hospital has been using for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, Brennan said.
“What we’ve been doing from the start is trying to prevent blood clots, monitor patients and get them hospitalized, and work with the home treatment team,” said Brennan.
In the intensive care unit, healthcare professionals use extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, known as ECMO, to help the lungs and heart that are injured due to COVID-19, Doerschug said.
The country is experiencing a shortage of ECMO machines, forcing healthcare professionals to turn to other treatments, he said.
“We’re trying to come up with protocols and find out what other hospitals are doing to make informed changes to our treatment plans,” Doerschug said. “If we run out of this resource, we will do everything we can to support our patients with non-ECMO functions – we could use the ventilator or increase it. “
An essential part of treatment is steroids and other COVID-19 drugs, Doerschug said.
“Giving people steroids is really important for reducing inflammation in the lungs,” Doerschug said. “Another drug that we use is tocilizumab, but there is a national shortage, so no one can
get this drug in this country.
The steroids help reduce inflammation in the lungs, which are targeted by COVID-19, Doerschug said.
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“Most of the injuries we see in the lungs are due to inflammation – it is necessary to fight infection but there is a balance between what is needed and what is in excess when fighting the virus. “said Doerschug. “The inflammation persists after the body gets rid of the virus, which is why steroids are helpful in reducing it in the lungs.”
As communities statewide see increased transmission rates, the UIHC is working with other hospitals to keep everyone healthy, said Dan Diekema, UIHC professor of internal medicine and epidemiologist. hospital associated with the UIHC.
“The leadership of the UIHC meets and communicates regularly with local and national public health and with other hospitals in our state and region, as we have done throughout the pandemic,” said Diekema. . “We need to keep a constant eye on the capacity of the health system in order to be able to anticipate the needs for patient transfers. “
Due to the recent increase and the number of patients requiring intensive care, staff in the intensive care unit are exhausted and are calling on the community to reduce the number of COVID-19, Doerschug said.
“We’ve been doing this for 18 months now – people need breaks and society needs to help us,” Doerschug said. “We really want help from people outside of health care to do the right things – get vaccinated and wear masks – to protect others and stop this.”
In addition, the low number of intensive care beds available at UIHC continues to pose a threat to people seeking care, Doerschug said.
“Our intensive care unit is full and we are working hard to get everyone in,” Doerschug said. “So far Iowa has been going well and we’ve been able to get people the help they need, but it took a lot of effort to figure out where to put it, effort that could be spent to the care of these patients. “
Almost everyone admitted to hospital with COVID-19 is not vaccinated, he said.
“Every day I see more COVID patients who die and have not received a vaccine. They’re not perfect, but it’s clear that vaccines work – people who get vaccinated don’t die in the intensive care unit, ”Doerschug said. “Vaccines save lives and we just need more people to get them. “