Navigating the Maze of Viral Illnesses This Fall: COVID-19, Influenza, and RSV
By: Kelly Knox, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, FNP-C
As we enter the fall season, it’s essential to stay informed about the viral illnesses that can affect our community. In Delaware, the changing weather, increased indoor gatherings, and a new school year can contribute to the spread of infectious illnesses including influenza (flu), COVID-19, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
If the end of summer gives us insight into how this fall and winter will be, our community members will need to be vigilant about protecting themselves from these viral illnesses. Atracare’s urgent care facilities in Lewes and Ocean View have already seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases before we have even entered into fall. The rise of COVID-19 will certainly confound the emergence of flu and RSV for the medical community as many of the signs and symptoms overlap making it difficult to identify without diagnostic testing.
Certain patient populations will need to take more care this fall season to protect themselves. People who have chronic medical conditions, elderly, immunosuppressed, heart or lung disease, diabetics, pregnant women and young infants are especially vulnerable to getting sicker when infected with COVID, flu or RSV. So it is important to remember that if you fit one of these criteria, prevention is paramount to keeping you and your loved ones healthy.
Prevention can include adequate hand washing, not touching your nose or mouth with unwashed hands, wearing masks indoors when around other people, eating healthy and exercising to boost your immune system, and cleaning highly trafficked surfaces are just a few ways. But prevention also means getting yourself vaccinated!
Vaccination is the single handed best way to help prevent flu spreading in your community. Per the CDC, the annual flu vaccine helps prevent people from severe illness and from spreading the virus. A 2022 study showed the flu vaccines reduced children’s risk of severe life threatening flu by 75%. Flu vaccines help reduce the severity of the illness if you do get the flu and prevent hospitalization. This is especially important for those with chronic medical conditions such as COPD, diabetes and heart disease, as flu can worsen these medical problems.
This season, a new tool has been added to the medical provider’s tool kit to help prevent RSV: Abrysvo by Pfizer. Abrysvo is a vaccine for RSV and is available to those 60 years of age and older and for women who are 32-36 weeks pregnant. This new RSV vaccine will help prevent lower respiratory tract diseases (LRTD), like pneumonia, and will also help newborns fight RSV better.
Treatment of viral illnesses include symptomatic treatment and supportive care which includes but is not limited to increased fluid intake, over the counter medications to control fever and discomfort, and rest; however, antiviral treatment may be appropriate for those diagnosed with COVID-19 or flu if they are within a high-risk group and meet the treatment criteria.
At Atracare, our priority is to keep our community healthy and informed. We offer in-house testing for influenza A and B as well as COVID-19 and RSV. By taking proactive measures, such as getting vaccinated, practicing good hygiene, and understanding the risks associated with viral illnesses like COVID-19, flu, and RSV, we can work together to minimize the spread of these infections and protect those most vulnerable in Delaware. Staying informed and following public health recommendations is crucial for a safe fall season.
Atracare has Walk-In Clinics in both Ocean View and Lewes. Both locations are open daily from 8AM to 8PM. Known for being easy to access and get seen quickly, Atracare uses texting services to register patients. Simply text (302) 754-5697 for the Ocean View clinic or (302) 517-1385 for Lewes. You can also book an appointment on their website at www.atracare.com.