Is the Lehigh Valley experiencing a ‘tripledemia’? How to stay safe from the flu, RSV and COVID this winter – The Morning Call

Is the Lehigh Valley experiencing a ‘tripledemia’?  How to stay safe from the flu, RSV and COVID this winter – The Morning Call

Lehigh Valley Health Network urges members of the community to take steps to protect themselves and their families this fall and winter from COVID-19, influenza, and RSV.

Experts have been warning for some time about how the three highly infectious viruses are likely to hit the US and the Lehigh Valley hard in the coming months. The spread of the flu started earlier than usual this year and many infectious disease experts have warned that this season is likely to be particularly bad.. Hospital pediatric departments have seen a sharp rise in cases and hospitalizations in RSV. there’s also several new highly infectious subvariants of the omicron variant coronavirus such as BA.4.6, BQ.1, BF.7, BQ.1.1, along with the still dominant sub-variant BA.5 that are circulating.

“Our goal is not to scare, our goal is to inform and protect our communities so people know what to do to prevent and, if they do get infected, what they can do to get treatment,” said Dr. Timothy Friel, chair of the department of LVHN. medicine, he said during a facebook town hall Tuesday.

Friel said measures used to slow the spread of COVID, such as wearing masks, social distancing and staying home, were also effective in slowing the spread of flu and RSV during the early years of the pandemic.

However, that has also led to young children who have never had RSV or the flu before and therefore have no natural immunity. In addition to this, very few people continue to follow those anti-COVID practices, leaving them vulnerable to these diseases.

Dr. Tibisay Villalobos, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, said the flu is not something to be taken lightly and there have already been two pediatric flu deaths this season. There were 200 flu-related pediatric deaths in the 2019-2020 season.

For adults and older children, RSV causes symptoms similar to those of the common cold, such as a runny nose and cough. But in young children and infants, RSV can cause bronchiolitis, an inflammation and swelling of the smallest airways in the body. The condition can cause shortness of breath and make it difficult for them to drink and eat.

Although subvariants of omicron have generally resulted in less severe COVID illness, it is still fatal. Throughout the month of October in the US, hundreds of people died from COVID each day on average. Even for those with mild or asymptomatic infections, Debilitating symptoms associated with the long duration of COVID can occur..

Villalobos reminded community members that there are vaccines available for the flu and COVID that are highly effective in reducing the risk of serious illness. However, an RSV vaccine is not yet publicly available.

For those who suspect they or a family member may have the flu, COVID, or RSV, tests that can detect and differentiate between the three viruses are available at most LVHN-operated pediatric practices and urgent care centers.

Getting a quick diagnosis of COVID is an important step in treating it, especially for those at higher risk for moderate or severe illness. Friel encouraged people who develop symptoms such as fever, sore throat, fatigue, aches and/or chills to get tested as soon as possible.

Prescription antivirals like Paxlovid must be taken within the first five days of exposure to be effective. . Monoclonal antibodies are still available for people who can’t take Paxlovid, but Friel said continued use of the current version of monoclonal bodies may not be as effective against newer variants.

Villalobos said that while masking is very effective at slowing the spread of COVID and the flu, it’s not exactly the same with RSV. Unlike other respiratory viruses, RSV can be spread by contact, so he recommended cleaning frequently touched surfaces, proper handwashing and not allowing children to share utensils or food.

She recommended that when children get sick but don’t need to be hospitalized, parents should do everything they can to make that time easier for their children and make sure they are comfortable, hydrated and properly fed. For children with RSV who are dealing with nasal congestion, parents should do what they can to make sure their child’s nasal passages are clear.

She said that children who are sick should not go to school. Villalobos also recommended that parents try to keep their sick children separate from those who aren’t sick, though this can be difficult. Friel added that sick adults should also be mindful not to spread their illness to others.

“If you’re sick, stay home,” Friel said. “I’m saying this whether you’re 55 years old and have flu-like symptoms or you’re a family member of a 6-month-old who has RSV symptoms. Be considerate about exposing others and limit that exposure, doing what you can to protect your neighbors, your friends, and others in your community.”

Morning Call reporter Leif Greiss can be reached at 610-679-4028 or lgreiss@mcall.com.

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