Health

RSV and flu are making a comeback. Here’s what Oregonians need to know

RSV and flu are making a comeback.  Here’s what Oregonians need to know

RSV and flu are making a comeback. Here’s what Oregonians need to know

RSV and flu are making a comeback.  Here’s what Oregonians need to know

In this 2022 file photo, a healthcare worker applies a bandage to the injection site of a patient who has just received a flu shot. The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year.

Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

It’s that time of year again: stuffy noses… barking coughs… respiratory viruses spreading.

Two in particular — flu and RSV — are worth educating yourself about.

Like COVID-19, influenza and RSV cause many infections and are mild for most, but can cause more serious illness and hospitalization for anyone with a weakened immune system, including: very young children, pregnant women, adults 65 and older, and the immunocompromised.

Both viruses have virtually disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic, something state health officials say they have never seen before. Influenza typically causes 12,000 to 52,000 deaths a year in the United States, and RSV is the leading cause of pneumonia in babies under one year of age.

Experts are concerned that both viruses could make a big comeback this winter, but that’s not a foregone conclusion. Flu season is particularly difficult to predict. Here’s what to expect from RSV and the flu in Oregon.

The flu

What is it

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a large family of viruses that are spread by breathing, coughing and sneezing. Two types in particular, influenza A and influenza B, cause most infections in humans. Each infected person tends to spread it to one or two others, making it much less contagious than COVID-19.

How to know it’s the flu

Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea are more common in children.

What we know about this year

As people gather and return to more normal behavior after the COVID restrictions, experts expect a more normal flu season and an increase in cases.

Flu activity in Oregon is minimal so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but some states in the southern United States are reporting many infections. That’s normal – flu season tends to start later in Oregon than in other parts of the country.

The winter flu season in the Southern Hemisphere can be key to what to expect in the Northern Hemisphere. dr. Melissa Sutton, medical director of viral respiratory pathogens at the Oregon Health Authority, said this year it’s been especially difficult to find clues about what to expect.

Data from the southern hemisphere is “all over the map,” with some places reporting high flu levels and others reporting lower than typical flu levels, she said. Sutton said some of the variation may be due to underreporting of the flu and public health departments shifting their focus to COVID.

Reduce risk

Flu vaccines are readily available and recommended for everyone over 6 months of age. In Oregon, fewer people received their annual flu shot than is typical for this time of year.

Even if you are not personally at risk, vaccination is a good way to reduce overall flu transmission and protect people who are at risk. Flu is known to cause pneumonia. These two conditions are responsible for about 500 deaths a year in Oregon, primarily in adults 65 and older, but often involving three or four pediatric deaths.

“The more people we can get vaccinated, the less we’ll see it spread in our communities.” Sutton said.

Several different flu vaccines are available, including three higher dose possibilities which are especially recommended for people aged 65 and over who are at a higher risk of complications.

FILE - This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV.  New research released by Pfizer on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, found that vaccinating pregnant women helped protect their newborns from a common but terrifying respiratory virus that fills hospitals with wheezing babies every fall.

FILE – This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV. New research released by Pfizer on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, found that vaccinating pregnant women helped protect their newborns from a common but terrifying respiratory virus that fills hospitals with wheezing babies every fall.

CDC via AP, File / AP

RSV

What is it

Respiratory syncytial virus or RSV for short is a virus that is transmitted by coughing, sneezing and touching contaminated surfaces. It is usually mild and is one of the most common causes of colds in children. In some cases, however, it can cause lung infections such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia, especially in children under 2 years of age. Each infected person tends to spread it to three others – so it’s more contagious than the flu, less contagious than COVID.

Most RSV infections clear up on their own within a week or two and can be controlled with proper diet, hydration, sleep, and the use of over-the-counter medications.

Young children, especially those younger than 6 months, are more likely to experience complications. Premature infants, infants with congenital heart or lung diseases, and infants with asthma are at greatest risk.

That’s partly because of their smaller airways and inability to blow their noses, said Eliza Hayes Bakken, MD, a pediatrician and medical director of the pediatrics clinic at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

“Babies can literally look like they’re drowning in snot,” she said. “Suctioning so they can breathe through their nose and feed a little better is one of our main interventions we do for infants.”

How to know his RSV

A runny nose, loss of appetite, cough, sneezing, fever, wheezing, and difficulty breathing are signs of RSV. Symptoms usually appear in stages, not all at once. In young children with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and difficulty breathing, according to the CDC.

What we know about this year

Some states are reporting increases in clinic and hospital visits related to RSV. The Oregon Health Authority declared the official start of RSV season last week based on the number of positive tests.

Because RSV mostly stopped spreading during the pandemic, Sutton said it’s likely more children were exposed to it for the first time.

“Essentially, we’re concerned that a wider age range could experience this severe disease,” Sutton said.

There is also a phenomenon known as immunosuppression, where a lack of exposure to the virus can reduce antibodies and the immune response. May affect infants whose mothers are immune he may have weakenedmaking protective antibodies less likely to pass through breast milk.

However, Hayes Bakken said parents shouldn’t get too hung up on reports of an increase in RSV. It is normal for some RSV seasons to be bad and others to be mild. What’s more, Hayes Bakken said that if your child delayed getting RSV during the pandemic and is now getting it for the first time, it’s probably in their best interest.

“I’d rather your healthy three-year-old get RSV for the first time than your two-month-old,” she said. “The vast majority of kids who struggle are kids who struggle every year.”

Hayes Bakken also suspects that part of why so many parents are bringing young children with RSV to clinics is because people who became parents during the pandemic have less experience helping children get through fevers and respiratory viruses at home.

Reduce risk

There is no vaccine against RSV, so people who want to avoid it should consider wearing a mask if they are in an indoor environment with lots of people. If you live with a child under 2 years of age, keeping adults and older children in a home mask in a crowded indoor environment can reduce the risk of transmission.

And if you have a baby under 6 months old or a young child with underlying illnesses, consider limiting the number of visitors in your household during RSV season. Hayes Bakken said she tells parents of young babies to keep the number of people who come to meet the baby to a minimum and to avoid large gatherings. On the other hand, if there is a small circle of family and friends to help with the baby, it is worth the risk.

Hand washing is also a more effective and important means of preventing the transmission of RSV than of COVID, and people are advised to wear a mask if they have a runny nose to prevent others from getting sick.



#RSV #flu #making #comeback #Heres #Oregonians

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button