Experts express concern over R.S.V., Flu case numbers

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 10:08 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Fall is just around the corner, meaning the fear of seasonal illnesses typically rises. But one health expert says many of those viruses have already arrived.

“We’re already seeing a huge explosion of respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Sean Elliott, an infectious disease expert at Tucson Medical Center. “They’re already overwhelming the emergency system and the floors are filled with kids already sick with those.”

Dr. Elliott says the spike in respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, in children could have huge impacts on pediatric health.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services in this season, over 730 cases of RSV have already been reported, for context, all of last season there were just over 7,600 cases, that’s a 5,200-percent increase over last season.

It’s not just RSV, flu cases are already up 2,000-percent from the previous season. Though that percentage is high because of the unusually low numbers last year.

“I think it is absolutely related to taking off the masks and going back to in person gatherings,” said Dr. Elliott.

He warns that the return of the seasonal flu epidemic coupled with the RSV spike and the mounting number of COVID cases across the state could spell chaos.

“First of all, patients with the flu might need hospitalization but where are they going to get hospitalized, there are parts of the country right now where there are no hospital beds certainly no ICU beds,” said Dr. Elliott. “The emergency departments are already seeing multi-hour waits.”

To prevent getting to that point, and to help keep people healthy, doctor Elliott is asking the community do their part.

“This year it is critically important for people to get the flu shot,” said Dr. Elliott.

Dr. Elliott recommends getting your flu shot in late September. He says if you are eligible, you can get your flu shot and COVID-19 booster shot at the same time, they will administer both shots in different arms.

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