The University of Kansas Health System reports another increase in the number of COVID patients today. 22 with the active virus are being treated, up from 16 on Friday. Only two of them are vaccinated. Six patients are in the ICU, down from seven Friday. Two are on ventilators, down from five Friday. 30 other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, down from 33 Friday. That’s a total of 52 patients, up from 49 on Friday. HaysMed has 14 total COVID patients, down from 19 on Friday.
On today’s Morning Medical Update, Halloween safety during COVID. Stephen Thornton, MD, medical director of The Poison Control Center at The University of Kansas Health System, joined us to talk about whether trick or treating will look different this year than last and he revealed the most common Halloween poisoning call to the hotline. Plus, another episode of Sunnye Says, showing how kids can be safe that night.
Before getting to the main topic, the panel took a moment to recognize the passing of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who died from COVID complications at 84. Doctors noted he was vaccinated but it’s hard to say what other medical conditions he had. They also said his age put him in the category of getting a booster or additional vaccine dosing.
Dr. Thornton wears two hats at the health system. Besides overseeing poison control, he’s an emergency department physician, so he sees Halloween problems from both points of view. He says even before COVID, trick or treating usually prompted calls to poison control. Of the 51 calls last year, the most were about glow sticks. He explained they are fairly non-toxic, but when they break, the chemical inside can cause quite a bit of irritation to the skin and the eyes. The best treatment is soap and water to rinse the skin, and wash the eyes out thoroughly. If the substance gets into the mouth, it could cause a bit of an upset stomach. He says they have a saying in poison control, “Never bet against the kids,” meaning they will always find a way to eat something toxic. Dry ice is another common reason for calling, as people don’t realize how cold it is and the burns it can cause if touched. He says adults must also be sure their medications are stored safely out of sight, as kids often mistake them for candy. In the emergency department, costume injuries, such as from makeup, are more and more common, as are alcohol related injuries. He says a combination of lots of people outside and a lot of adults drinking make it a riskier, but still overall safe holiday. He wants to stress that the poison control hotline, 800-222-1222, is free, and they are completely non-judgmental. He wants everyone to call, even if you’re not sure if it’s serious. On the topic of COVID, he says the call center still gets a steady stream of calls about ivermectin. He stresses ivermectin does not work to treat COVID. He also says the number of COVID patients coming to the emergency department is lower, but of those who come, 95 percent are unvaccinated.
Dana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control, says the same precautions for Halloween are still in place this year as last. For the trick or treaters, masks are best as well as keeping a good distance between each other. He says it should be safe for adults to hand out candy from their doors, as the interaction with each ghost or goblin is only a few seconds. But he says you can still stay safe with a mask and eye protection. On the question of whether vaccine mandates drive people away from getting the shot, he says those people are uninformed and medically, vaccination is the best way to prevent excess death, hospitalization, and serious illness from COVID. One viewer says her pharmacist recommended not getting the COVID booster and the flu shot. Dr. Hawkinson says that’s bad advice from the pharmacist, as the CDC says you can safely get both at the same time. To those who balk at getting the vaccine saying they have immunity already from getting the disease, he says that so called “natural immunity” doesn’t appear to last as long as a vaccine. He adds there is a growing body of evidence that people vaccinated with at least one dose after infection have higher antibody levels compared to people who just had the infection. It’s also the CDC’s advice to get the vaccine, even after you’ve had COVID.
Tuesday, October 19 at 8:00 a.m. is the next Morning Medical Update. A mother and daughter discover a gene that means breast cancer runs in their family. We'll take a look at how the survivorship and high risk program here at the health system is helping save lives.
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