Good Hygiene Can Help Cut Down On Flu, RSV Cases If We Can Follow Basic Best Practices

How quickly we forget some of the basic lessons we thought we had learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flu and RSV cases in Chautauqua County are among the highest in New York state outside of New York City. Chautauqua County has seen 458 doctor-confirmed cases of the flu since the week ending Oct. 29, including 260 cases the week ending Nov. 12. In 2019-20, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began, there were only two cases in the same five-day period and four cases total for the same three-week period. In the last pre-pandemic year, the county hasn’t seen diagnosed flu cases begin increasing into the mid-30s until roughly the week before Christmas.

It’s not just a Chautauqua County problem. More than half the states have high or very high levels of flu, unusually high for this early in the season, the CDC reported recently, and many hospitals already are dealing with a surge of illnesses from RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of coldlike symptoms that can be serious for infants and the elderly. Adults can get RSV too and that infection can be especially dangerous for older adults who are frail or have chronic illnesses, doctors say. There is not yet a vaccine against RSV although some are in development.

The rash of flu and respiratory virusus in the area is causing hospitals and doctors to fill up quickly. It’s harder to get care right now because there are so many viruses running around. Some area classrooms have been half-full in the days before Thanksgiving vacation due to sickness. One way to avoid the flu is to get a flu shot — but CDC reports show flu vaccinations are down from other years, particularly among adults, possibly because the past two seasons have been mild. Other than getting a flu vaccine, which can help keep flu symptoms from become too severe, the best way to avoid getting the flu is by practicing basic good hygiene, staying home when we don’t feel well and staying somewhat socially distanced when we’re in group settings — the same sort of things that were encouraged to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

We should know the drill by now — but the numbers say we don’t.


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