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The number of flu, COVID and RSV cases is steadily rising at the Johnson Memorial

The number of flu, COVID and RSV cases is steadily rising at the Johnson Memorial


Flu season is upon us, and RSV and COVID-19 are raging.

All three viruses have similar symptoms, including fever, runny nose, and nasal congestion. All of them are also respiratory viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

‘Normal’ flu season expected

Last week, state health officials reported the first flu death of the 2022-2023 flu season, earlier than usual. Officials are encouraging Hoosiers to get the flu vaccine to protect against the strain of flu that is expected to predominate this year.

Flu season is still in its infancy, but Johnson Memorial Hospital has not had any hospitalizations for the flu so far. However, the hospital’s president and CEO, Dr. David Dunkle, said cases were starting to appear in outpatient clinics and emergency care centers.

Dunkle expects this winter to be a more normal flu season, with case levels seen in pre-pandemic years.

“One of the positive side effects from all the precautions people have taken because of COVID is that we haven’t seen the flu in literally almost two years,” Dunkle said.

Doctors have no reason to expect anything more than a typical flu season, but Dunkle said it could get worse. Locally, vaccination rates are a little slower than normal, Dunkle said.

“One of the things that I think many health professionals are concerned about is that people are suffering so much from COVID fatigue itself that they don’t see their regular intake of flu vaccines … in the past. There may have been, but you know, most people aren’t masking[up]anymore,” Dunkle said. is set to be a worse season.”

RSV cases are on the rise


RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is another seasonal virus that doctors see, and numbers tend to worsen from November to April. As with other respiratory viruses, symptoms tend to be fever, wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing, Dunkle said.

The virus tends to be more severe in children and is one of the leading causes of hospitalization in children. Adults can also get RSV, but symptoms tend to be mild, he said.

Hospitals across the state are seeing an increase in the number of RSV cases. Indianapolis media outlets reported earlier this month that Peyton Her Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis had reached capacity as the number of RSV cases increased.

Doctors at JMH have seen more RSV cases pass through clinics, urgent care centers, and ERs in recent days. JMH has transferred several pediatric RSV patients to other hospitals, he said, Dunkle.

“It mirrors what’s happening in the rest of the state,” Dunkle said. “Riley (Children’s Hospital) and Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital have seen a significant increase in the number of RSV-positive patients, clearly where sick children go. .”

Although the number of cases is increasing, RSV is not a new virus. Due to COVID-19, wearing a mask provided temporary reprieve from the virus. Now that fewer people are wearing masks, the numbers are back to more typical levels, Dunkle said.

“We are constantly seeing an increase in respiratory viral infections requiring hospitalization with our communities as we enter the winter months,” he said.

Stable number of COVID cases

When it comes to COVID-19, JMH has seen several hospitalizations per day due to the virus over the past 3-4 weeks. “It’s pretty stable,” Dunkle said.

Over the past few months, Dunkle has seen a trend of more people being hospitalized simply because they have symptoms of COVID-19. Six or seven months ago, he said, it was more common for people to be hospitalized for other illnesses and, incidentally, to have COVID.

they wanted something else. It wasn’t their first diagnosis,” Dunkle said. “They were found to have COVID when they were hospitalized. I can see it now.”

The majority of COVID patients hospitals see are unvaccinated people. But doctors are also starting to see people who were vaccinated early when the vaccine came out getting the virus.

Nationwide, most hospitalizations and cases are due to BA.5 variants specifically targeted by booster shots. But a new variant, his BQ.1, now occurs in 1 in 10 people nationwide, Dunkle said.

“What we’re seeing is… going to be a roller coaster of events,” Dunkle said. It goes through the chasms in between.We may not see that many cases.”

Dunkle isn’t as worried about COVID as he was in the early days of the pandemic, but he’s disappointed because the virus appears to be here to stay.

“I think we missed the boat when we once had the potential to eradicate this,” Dunkle said. All we can do is move forward from this point.”

Why cases are increasing

In 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic put universal precautions such as wearing masks in place, cases of both influenza and RSV decreased. Dunkl said it was COVID-19, not the flu or RS virus.

“If you had a respiratory disease, it was COVID,” he said. “We didn’t see any hospitalizations due to flu or RSV, but part of that was because … people were working from home or not attending school. It is a place where the is spreading.”

Respiratory diseases tend to spread more easily when people are indoors because they are in close contact. When people are outside, the air quickly dilutes what they exhale, Dunkle said.

During the winter, doctors are constantly observing an increase in respiratory diseases. COVID just so happens to join the ranks, he said.

“Influenza and respiratory syncytial virus have been around for many years, and we’ve only had another virus that is highly contagious and leads to hospitalization: COVID,” Dunkle said.

how to prevent illness

There are many things people and children can do to prevent respiratory diseases. Dunkle encourages people to wash their hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, avoid contact with sick people, and take universal precautions like wearing a mask.

“If you have respiratory symptoms, wear a mask,” he said. “As we try to look for something good out of the novel coronavirus pandemic, we are told that these universal precautions really do work. is working. We sometimes have to do a little better job to accommodate those populations.

Children should go to school, but parents shouldn’t hesitate to have their child wear a mask if they have respiratory symptoms.

“This is not the end of the world and mask wearing is everywhere now,” Dunkle said. If you choose to wear a mask, please respect that decision.” That’s a much better way to see it and wear a mask if you have respiratory symptoms. ”

Dunkle believes in individual choice and feels that people should have the right to make decisions about their health. , or if you want to reduce your risk of infecting your loved ones with COVID-19, you should get vaccinated, he said.

“We have compelling data that they work. We have compelling data that these vaccines are not only effective, but they are very safe.”

Staying up to date with the COVID-19 vaccine continues to provide strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death in adults, according to CDC data.

Regardless of the virus, if you feel unwell and have symptoms of respiratory illness, you should see your healthcare provider. Treatments are different for influenza, RSV and COVID, and health care providers need to test patients to distinguish between the viruses, Dunkle said.

In addition, the sooner you can get treatment, the better the results.

“People get into trouble when the wait time is too long,” says Dunkle. “My public service announcement won’t have to wait too long. … If you don’t feel well, talk to your health care provider.”




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