(COLORADO SPRINGS) — A continual increase in respiratory illnesses throughout the state of Colorado is causing concern for doctors and health officials.
“The number of individuals testing positive for flu has gone up exponentially,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, Senior Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control for UCHealth. “And the number of hospitalizations that we’re seeing related to flu are also going straight up.”
It is not only flu cases that are on the rise, but also RSV cases.
“So, I think it’s important to recognize… what we saw in the last couple of years with COVID… there’s now COVID, there’s RSV, there’s flu, there’s other cold viruses. They’re all kinds circulating,” said Dr. Barron.
El Paso County Public Health shared, as of Tuesday, there are 54 RSV outbreaks in school and childcare settings.
“What we’re having now where the percent of tests positive is very high,” said Dr. Bernadette Albanese Co-Medical Director at El Paso County Public Health. “It’s at 18.7% now statewide, which is… quite a high number for flu, and we haven’t even hit the peak yet.”
Dr. Albanese said the rise in RSV hospitalizations among children is higher than in previous years.
“What’s happened, though, with this season of RSV is that the activity started about a month or so earlier than we might normally start detecting it,” said Dr. Albanese. “And it rose very, very, very sharply, it was just sort of a straight shot up. So that made it a little bit different than… in years past.”
El Paso County Public Health reported there have been 116 flu hospitalizations in El Paso County, with a sharp increase in recent weeks. The flu data dashboard is available to view online.
Dr. Albanese said there is a kind of trifecta of diseases with patients having RSV, the flu, and COVID-19.
“And so we have all of these viruses circulating at very noticeable levels for this time of the year,” said Dr. Albanese. “Going to continue to be that way probably for some number of days or weeks until we get, you know, a steady sense that things are quieting down.”
Dr. Barron similarly addressed how these three viruses are being spread, and how the flu is impacting many.
“There are other viruses circulating, so COVID and RSV are also obviously circulating and making people sick,” said Dr. Barron. “But good old-fashioned flu that we really haven’t seen during the pandemic, and that’s why it’s so striking how many people are becoming infected with it.”
Both doctors recommended measures to prevent the spread of these respiratory illnesses.
“So do everyone a favor, if you’re going to go out and you are sick, then wear a mask at least,” said Dr. Barron. “So that stuff is contained and it’s not just being spewed out to everyone.”
Dr. Albanese recommended staying home if you are sick to avoid exposing others.
“Take care if you’re sick, stay away from others really as best you can,” said Dr. Albanese. “But try to stay away from others, wear a mask if you’re sick. But if you’re concerned about getting exposed, it’s perfectly okay, you have the choice to put the mask on and the mask will give you a layer of protection.”