Arizona faces ‘triple epidemic’ of respiratory illnesses as weather turns cold

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) — It’s been a very bad year, at least so far, for respiratory disease.

It’s still very early, but the fall season for respiratory illnesses is already in full swing.

Let’s take a look at the numbers so far for what might be called a “triple epidemic.”

For RSV, a respiratory disease that primarily affects the very young and very old, the trendline looks like a rocket taking off. Directly.

A virus where there have been fewer than three hundred cases a year for the past five years, has peaked ten times higher this year so far and half in the past week alone.

The flu virus rose early, even having a few cases over the summer. More than half of the flu cases have been reported in the past week.

And covid-19, the state data dashboard shows more than 7,600 cases last week, about two thousand increases from the previous week.

So what gives?

“Over the past two or three years, we’ve had a lot of mitigation efforts,” said Eugene Livar, deputy director of health preparedness at the Arizona Department of Health Services. “We had social distancing, we had masking, we had other things that came into play with covid 19.”

But much of that has now been forgotten and is in the rearview mirror of most people.

“And now that we’re back to normal and maybe people aren’t doing these things as much, we’re seeing a rebound in respiratory infection season,” Livar said.

For many young, healthy people, RSV may not be serious, more bothersome than anything else, but for some, especially those with weakened immune systems or young children, it is a big problem.

“We see people having trouble breathing, growling, flaring their noses and these are often signs that they’re getting into serious condition and you want to see a doctor,” Livar said. “You may need to go to the hospital or seek hospital treatment.”

For the flu peak, there is a vaccine and doctors recommend it. It may not prevent getting the flu, especially during a season when cases start early, but it will make the outcome less severe.

Same with COVID, where cases and hospitalizations are increasing.

What to do?

“Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, make sure you stay away from other sick people, stay home when you’re sick so you don’t spread it to others and also let it be COVID-19 or the flu, get vaccinated,” he said.

As we enter the holiday season, travel and family reunions make prevention all the more important.

About Jefferey G. Cannon

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