Ballad Health: current COVID strain affecting younger patients, more likely to be severe
Ballad Health officials Wednesday told reporters that the increase in COVID cases in the region over the last few weeks appears to be at least in part because of the introduction of a more aggressive variant or variants into the region.
“While the situation is not as bad as it was in January, we are seeing a very disturbing trend moving forward,” said Eric Deaton, Ballad Health COO. “The average age of our inpatients around six weeks prior was around 70 years of age. Our average age of our (COVID) inpatients today is about 58 years of age. So, obviously, we’re seeing younger patients hospitalized with COVID-19. That growing number continues to be concerning because we’re also starting to see people even at 20 and 30 years of age be admitted, and even on ventilators.”
The severity of the recent spike is greater than previous COVID cases, Deaton added. “The number of people on ventilators has increased as a percentage. Earlier, we were seeing 20-or-so percent of the inpatients on ventilators. Today, over 30 percent of the patients hospitalized are in our ICU and are really needing a lot more care than before.”
Since early March, the number of cases Ballad is seeing has risen almost 60 percent.
“Those are two key indicators that lead us to believe that we have variant strains spreading,” said Jamie Swift, director of Infection Prevention, “because that’s exactly what you see in places where we know the UK strain is dominant. It’s more aggressive and those younger patients end up very sick in the hospital.
Ballad has contracted to test wastewater in communities in its coverage area to determine if the UK variant is present there. Those results should be available in as soon as one week, Deaton said.