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Among older adults, COVID deaths rise. Among little kids, RSV cases rise

Public health officials in Vilas County didn’t report COVID deaths over the summer – until the middle of August.

Since then, four people in the county have died from COVID-19.

It’s a rise that’s mirrored by other nearby counties. Lincoln, Langlade and Forest County also reported additional deaths from the virus last week.

Most of the deaths fall into the same demographic group.

“That’s older adults in their 70s and 80s and they have comorbidity illnesses as well,” says Tammi Boers, the assistant director of the Vilas County Health Department.

Boers says any time there is an increase in cases, more deaths tend to follow.

“It just means more people are becoming ill, and with that if you have any high-risk factors, it does increase your chance of being hospitalized or possibly dying of COVID,” she says.

However, Boers says this surge could be slightly different because the Delta variant seems to spread quickly among younger people, who are less likely to die from the virus.

In addition to spread of the Delta variant, Boers also noted a spike in another virus – respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV.

That’s a virus that mostly affects kids under 2 and causes cold-like symptoms, much like COVID.

RSV cases normally increase over the winter, but this year, RSV cases in Wisconsin started rising in July – including in Northern Wisconsin.

“[The rise] makes sense because everyone has been home. People have been going to school and working virtually so their kids may not have gone to daycare like they did in the past,” Boers says. “So kids weren’t getting their immune systems boosted because they weren’t with other kids.”

Now that schools are back in session and daycares are filling up, Boers says RSV is spreading quickly.

The virus spreads mostly though touch, so measures like handwashing and wiping down surfaces are the best ways to prevent it.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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