Three separate respiratory diseases are circulating simultaneously, affecting the health of residents, Dr. Adrian Popp, head of the infectious diseases department at Huntington Hospital, said Tuesday.
The three main culprits–RSV or respiratory syncytial virus, Covid-19 and influenza–are hittng a range of patients, from young to old.
“What happened for the last two years, we were very cautious, masking, distancing and washing hands, so those measures protected us against other illnesses. Now we’re all sick and tired of those measures. So we’re seeing a plethora of respiratory diseases coming back with a vengeance because of our behavior; because we didn’t have (other viruses) and so some of the immunity we bear year to year, we’re sort of sitting ducks to viruses.”
“Covid has never really gone away,” Popp asid. “The epidemic transormed itself as Covid evolved with new variants. The good news about the variant BQ1.1, which is prevalent in this area, is that the disease is less severe. so the mortality rate we saw about two years has decreased quite a bit. The bad news is that Covid became more transmissble.”
Suffolk County faces the highest reinfection rate in the state, he said.
Popp said respiratory diseases usually peak in January or February as people remain in closer contact indoors during cold weather. “But we’re starting off on the wrong foot,” he said, with more patients than usual being treated at the hospital or being admitted, for a respiratory diseases.
RSV is most threatening to younger children and seniors. Popp said that those under age 2 can be severely affected or even face the risk of death, while for adults, RSV behaves like a flu, with a cough and shortness of breath. Healthy adult patients recover in a week or so while seniors over the age of 65 face a more severe consequences.
To reduce the chance of infection, Popp said, “One thing we can do as preventative. Just wear a mask and wash your hands. It’s not unreasonable. You don’t have to wear it everywhere but if there’s lots of peope. Get a flu vaccine. The good news is the vaccine that they come up always a guess what kind of flu is involved, but this year the vaccine is quite a good match.
“Use common sense, wear a mask; if you don’t have to go somewhere, if you feel sick, stay home and go get yourelf tested. That’s a way to break the chaiin of infection.”
Flu vaccines are recommended for everyone over the age of 2.
Certain drugs are useful against specific illnesses; Tamiflu, for example, can be used against flu, though there are shortages of the drug reported in parts of the country.
Paxlovid is used to treat Covid-19, and there is a medication for young children infected with RSV.