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RSV, COVID and Flu Affects Alpena Area

This past week, there’s been an uptick in cases of covid–19, the flu, and the respiratory illness known as respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV all across the country, and here in northeast Michigan as well. The wintertime is often when we see an increase of people becoming sick from the flu, but right now we’re seeing people come down with not only the flu, but also COVID-19 and RSV, potentially at the same time.

We visited MyMichigan medical center and spoke with Dr. Tom Thornton, the Vice President of Medical Affairs. Dr. Thornton told us the RSV wave is starting to die down, but the peak of flu season has yet to reach us. He also said the reason for the school closings could be related to influenza A.

“A large majority of those patients haven’t been tested, but we’re seeing really high numbers in our ER and our primary care clinics of influenza A currently,” he said.

All three of these illnesses affect the respiratory system and can cause difficulty breathing. RSV is only a serious threat to younger children. COVID and the flu appear very similar, so treatment doesn’t vary much.

“The reality is that they’re treated very similar, any way they’re both being viruses, there’s often not treatment that’s offered in the healthy patients, so in the immune–suppressed population, people with a lot of medical conditions, there are antivirals for covid and for flu, but we don’t offer those in the healthy patients,” said Dr. Thornton.

Seeing a spike in all three of these viruses is fairly common around this time of year, but after COVID, we may be perceiving it differently.

“It may be that with having a couple years of masking and distancing, that this year people are easing a lot of that, that maybe our immune systems aren’t quite where they used to be and that’s why we’re seeing a bigger spike,” said Dr. Thornton.

Thornton says these illnesses can be treated at home, but if they don’t improve or even worsen, to contact your primary care provider.

“The big things to keep in mind, lots of fluids,” he said. “Dehydration can happen especially if you’re running a fever, using things like Tylenol and Ibuprofen to control fever. If you start running into trouble with difficulty breathing, worsening shortness of breath, if you have a high fever that’s just not coming down, those are times when you want to reach out to your primary care provider, or go to your nearest emergency room.”

As the schools look to slow the spread of these illnesses, they plan on returning to classes on Monday, December 19.