UPHS pediatrician provides insight on RSV, flu, and COVID

This article appeared in UP Matters. Read more here

With kids back in school and colder weather here, getting sick is almost inevitable. The three main illnesses going around are RSV, flu, and COVID-19.

According to the Associated Press, RSV and flu seasons have started earlier this year than in previous years. Dr. Isaac Smith, a pediatrician with UP Health System, explains why we may be seeing an early spike.

“RSV used to be more of a winter virus, and it still is, but last year and the year before, and I suppose this year, the shift we’re seeing in RSV is that it’s occurring a little bit earlier. Late summer, early fall, and then through the mid-fall here this year as well. I think that mostly has to do with changes in our behavior and also our immunity to RSV. There’s a whole cohort of children, or a couple cohorts of children who were never really exposed to it for a couple of years during COVID.

“Daycares were shut down, we were masking, social distancing, we just didn’t see RSV. We didn’t see influenza either. There were a couple of years where there weren’t really cases of influenza, period. Really the reason was we were taking a lot of couple precautions to help the transmission of COVID, but it had this preventative transmission of these viruses as well. So now all of those kids are a little bit older and we’re all kind of out and about again in the world and we’re seeing those viruses come back up.”

Dr. Smith goes on to explain which group of people may be more susceptible to certain illnesses.

“There’s a couple of differences of who’s at risk for more severe infections with the three viruses. COVID and influenza can cause severe illness in children and certainly have in the past and certainly do, but they tend to affect those immunocompromised more. They tend to affect elderly folks more, too. But influenza can certainly cause a really awful, yucky illness in young infants and children as well. Where as RSV on the other hand tends to cause the most severe illness in children who are less than 5 and really in children who are less than 2. So there’s a bit of a different pattern of who is the most at risk between the viruses, as well.”

Dr. Smith and other local providers saw a spike of these illnesses in October, but currently sees a downward trend of these infections in the area. While certain parts of our state are seeing pediatric beds fill up due to RSV and influenza infections in children, Dr. Smith wants to reassure the community that this isn’t the case here, specifically in Marquette County.

“Across the state, across the country, larger pediatric centers are quite busy. Their beds are full of kiddos sick with RSV. Here in Marquette, I do want to reassure the community that we do have space, we do have pediatric bed space available, and we are in good shape. We have plenty of resources to take care of sick, the vast majority of sick kids who have respiratory illnesses like this.”

Dr. Smith says the best way to prevent illness is to wash your hands, wear a mask, social distancing, and staying up to date on your flu and COVID vaccines.

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