Flu season has come early and is hitting Maryland especially hard.
Before the pandemic, in 2019, eight people were in Maryland hospitals with the flu that week.
Dr. Kathy Weishaar, chief medical officer of Frederick Health, did not have specific data on influenza at the health system’s hospital that she could immediately provide during a telephone interview Thursday.
However, he said, like other health systems across the state, Frederick Health is experiencing an early surge in patients sick with the flu.
“What we’ve seen historically is the numbers really start to go up in December,” he said. “But we are seeing the numbers go up this month and last month.”
Unlike the last two years of the pandemic, which saw unusually mild flu seasons, the public is less prepared to deal with a surge in infectious disease, Weishaar said.
The wearing of masks has greatly decreased and people are once again mingling at social gatherings. Although it’s hard to say, Weishaar suspects there may even be a “rebound effect,” in which people engage in more social activities than they normally would.
The data clearly shows that the restrictions and health precautions put in place for COVID-19 were also effective in reducing the spread of influenza.
During the 2019-20 flu season in Maryland, hospitalizations began to rise in December and peaked during the week of February 8, at 378. But they declined rapidly over the following month, as people sheltered in their homes. homes.
Even as people continue to get sick from COVID-19, the country has another respiratory virus to contend with this season.
Although respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, circulates in the population every year, and usually appears before the flu, it has spiked unusually fast, overwhelming children’s hospitals across the country.
To spot patterns in the spread of the virus, Weishaar recently plotted Maryland data for RSV, which is most dangerous to young children, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised.
“Last year, it went up gradually. It almost looks like she’s walking up a hill,” she said. “But this year, it was flat and then it took off in early September.”
The virus has started off on a slight downward trend in Maryland over the past several weeks, but is still circulating at significant levels, Weishaar said.
Frederick Health does not have a pediatric ICU, so it refers children who need intensive services to other health centers, Weishaar said. A system created during the pandemic to help doctors locate available beds in nearby health systems has been helpful.
So have less tangible relics of COVID-19.
“We’ve gotten really good at how to use our resources, maybe, in a more collaborative way with other departments, or how to use nurses in a different way to make sure we can deliver the high-quality care that we’re all committed to.” accustomed. , even in a situation where we may have more patients than we expect,” he said.
Until now, Weishaar said, Frederick Health employees have largely been able to treat children in their designated spaces in the hospital, without the need for overflow rooms or wings.
Tips to stay healthy
The number one step Frederick County residents can take to stay healthy this flu season is to get vaccinated.
Flu shots are available at pharmacies throughout the county.
Kelly Lookingbill and Elaine Kline, communicable disease community health nurses with the Frederick County Health Department, recommended that parents bring their children to the pediatrician’s office for vaccinations so that other medical evaluations can be done at the same time.
With RSV on the rise at the same time as the flu, COVID-19, and the common cold, it can be hard for parents to know what’s causing their child’s cold.
Lookingbill and Kline recommend that parents take their children to the doctor as soon as possible to find out what type of virus they have, so they can begin treatment.
And when a child has a fever that hasn’t gone away in a day or two, is dehydrated, or has trouble breathing, it’s time to go back to the doctor or hospital.
“The parental sense is probably better than any other sense,” Lookingbill said. “If they have a feeling that something is wrong, regardless of whether or not there is shortness of breath, they need to act accordingly and make sure their child is evaluated.”
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