Health officials concerned by rise in flu, RSV cases
Published 5:48 pm Friday, November 25, 2022
The Virginia healthcare community is encouraging local residents who haven’t done so to get vaccinated against the flu, get vaccinated or boosted against COVID-19, and to take personal health and safety precautions as we enter what could be a particularly intense flu and respiratory illness season.
This year’s flu season is already showing early, concerning signs that it may be worse than in recent years, Virginia Department of Health officials said in a recent news release.
There are also increasing numbers of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) cases, which may cause serious illness and hospitalization in children and older adults.
If these trends continue, healthcare officials both locally and across Virginia say this could strain healthcare systems in some communities. Virginia doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers are already being inundated with a surge of sick patients seeking care, filling hospital beds, and in many cases requiring longer hospital stays.
Data from Virginia hospitals and public health surveillance information from the Virginia Department of Health suggest that the Commonwealth faces the prospect of a particularly challenging flu and respiratory disease season throughout this fall and winter. Emergency department and urgent care clinic visits involving patient diagnoses of RSV have quadrupled since early September and remain significantly elevated.
Visits for flu-like illness are also rising – for the week ending November 5, such visits are at least four times higher than in the same week for each of the past four years, according to VDH.
In Virginia, we have seen a 41 percent increase in flu-like illness and an overall 18 percent increase in respiratory illness from the week prior. Virginia Immunization Information System data from July 1-November 9, 2022 indicates that flu vaccination uptake in children younger than 12 is lower this year as compared to the same time periods during the previous three years.
Virginia Department of Health Eastern Region Public Information Officer Larry Hill gave some general everyday techniques for people to stay safe and healthy.
“The best defense is a flu shot,” Hill said. “Also wash your hands, cover your sneeze or cough and stay home when sick.”
Likewise, the Western Tidewater Health District shared a Facebook post on Nov. 13 with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
Described as a “common respiratory virus that