Valley hospitals reporting an uptick in respiratory illnesses
HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Virginia health officials anticipate this flu season could be worse than others. Around the commonwealth, health systems are already seeing an uptick in respiratory illnesses, including the flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
Emergency department and urgent care visits with diagnosed RSV have quadrupled and have been rapidly increasing since early September, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
While RSV is common and usually causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, it can be very dangerous for young infants or those who are immunocompromised.
“We are seeing a rise in influenza cases and I think that will continue to increase steadily as we approach the winter and holiday season,” said Dr. Alison Baroco, an infectious disease specialist with Augusta Health.
Augusta Health, Valley Health, and Sentara RMH are all seeing an uptick in cases.
“Most of my acute visits I’d say are for influenza-like illnesses, and that’s a big umbrella for things like influenza, RSV, parainfluenza, adenovirus. There are lots of viruses, including enteroviruses. Sinus infections are one,” Dr. Jennifer Derby, with Sentara Timber Way Health Center, said.
With COVID-19, older adults and immunocompromised were most at risk, but with these respiratory viruses, more populations are at risk of complications.
“Usually infants or children less than two years of age, people that have a weak immune system or people that have other medical problems, including pregnancy, diabetes, being obese, lung conditions, and then people that are older,” Dr. Baroco said.
Dr. Derby said you should seek medical attention if you cannot eat or drink are lethargic, have a fever lasting more than four days, or are in respiratory distress.
“For kiddos, if they’re really short of breath or having rib pain they really need to be seen. If they’re having difficulty speaking in sentences or difficulty drinking or staying hydrated, those are all emergency room visits,” she said.
If you find yourself feeling under the weather, stay vigilant.
“Wash your hands, stay home, and if you have to be out, wear a mask, but ideally you are staying home until your respiratory symptoms have resolved,” Dr. Baroco said.
Virginia and local health officials encourage everyone ages six months and older to get a flu vaccine as soon as possible.
“The best way to reduce the risk of flu and its potentially serious complications is to get vaccinated each year,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Colin M. Greene said. “This is why I am encouraging Virginians to receive their annual flu shot and practice preventive healthy habits.”
It is safe to get both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine at the same time if you are eligible and the timing coincides, according to the CDC.
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