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    Protect Yourself with Respiratory Illnesses on the Rise

    Protect Yourself with Respiratory Illnesses on the Rise

    Photo By Douglas Stutz | Making it stick...with a surge in respiratory illness across the nation, Naval...... read more read more

    There’s a few constants in the Pacific Northwest associated with the holiday season and onset of winter.

    Rain and cold are a given. So are respiratory illnesses.

    To the viral triple threat of respiratory illnesses of COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold, now add Respiratory Syncytial Virus, referred to as RSV.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all are surging throughout the entire region and nation-wide. Although none of these viruses are new, they are more common in the fall and winter months.

    “One of the primary reasons is that with colder weather people spend more time indoors and so are physically closer together allowing for easier spread/transmission of respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Dan Frederick, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton population health officer and public health emergency officer.

    “Additionally, school age children returning to school aids in transmission of respiratory viruses,” noted Cmdr. Brian Legendre, NHB preventive medicine officer.

    There are some public health officials who attest the surge of respiratory infections is due to a lapse of protocols put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, such as mask-wearing, social distancing and constant reminders of hand-sanitizing.

    “During the last two winters the relatively good compliance with these mitigation measures and the dramatic low numbers of other respiratory illnesses seems pretty compelling, if not obvious, for a cause and effect,” Frederick said. “Now that there has been a relaxing of these measures and behaviors, in part due to the lifting of mandates and quite honestly “COVID fatigue,” it is really not surprising that we are seeing this surge in cases this season.

    Fredrick attests that there are multiple protective measures which everyone can apply daily to help lessen the potential spread of the viruses.

    “Now, more so than before the pandemic, we need to do our best to follow the tried and true standard recommendations of the 4 Cs,” exclaimed Frederick.

    1. Clean your hands. (Wash/sanitize frequently)
    2. Cover your cough. (With the inside surface of your arm or better yet, a mask).
    3. Crowds (and coughers, i.e. sick people) should be avoided.
    4. Confine yourself to home if you are sick. This one needs to be foot stomped. This can really help to break the cycle.

    RSV might seem like yet another new virus in the headlines but like the common cold and flu, it has been around for quite some time.

    “While most children have been infected and fully recovered by the time they get to elementary school, it can make some children, especially the very young, quite sick and in rare cases, it can be fatal,” Frederick said.

    To be clear, RSV is not a new virus and testing to identify RSV is not usually necessary. The sickness from RSV, such as bronchiolitis, or inflammation of the small airways, is treated with the same supportive measures, regardless of what the viral etiology may be,” remarked Cmdr. Mia Jin, NHB pediatrician.

    Those most vulnerable to RSV are generally either younger or older.

    “Due to their smaller airways, younger children in particular are more vulnerable to the inflammation and mucus reaction to this disease. Adults over age 65 can also become very sick from RSV, with potentially fatal infections. Older children and adults are conversely less affected because their larger airways can tolerate this condition while the immune system responds,” stated Frederick.

    “Those children with a history of prematurity or low birthweight, chronic lung disease of prematurity, certain heart defects, and those with weak immune systems due to illness or treatments can be at greater risk of severe RSV infection,” Jin said.

    Each of these viruses are spread from person to person, especially between those in close contact – six feet or less - with each other. All are shared by droplets that occur when someone with the illness coughs, sneezes, or talks. The droplets spray out and land on someone else and get inhaled into their lungs. A person can also get physically infected by shaking hands, touching a handrail or door knob that has the virus on it and then touching their own nose, eyes or mouth.

    Even for the common cold, of which there is no known cure, the CDC notes people can reduce the risk of getting a cold by hand washing often, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

    Frederick recommends for all those vaccinated for COVID-19 to add the bivalent booster shot, as well as add the annual flu vaccine.

    “The value of vaccination for respiratory diseases such as influenza and COVID cannot be overemphasized. That being said, it should be understood that vaccination does not make you bulletproof from the disease. Vaccinations are risk reducers. Some vaccines are better than others but they all reduce the impact of the disease they target. So while people may still get an infection after they have been vaccinated, their chances of getting hospitalized and dying is significantly reduced. To that end, our COVID vaccines did an amazing job keeping a lot of people alive who would have died without it. Especially when we did not have good treatment medications for a COVID infection,” explained Frederick.

    The overlapping symptoms between COVID, flu and RSV include fever and/or chills, shortness of breath or difficult breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, coughing/sneezing, muscle pain/body ache, headache, and even vomiting/diarrhea.

    It can take at least one or more days after someone is infected by either virus to begin to experience any of the symptoms just mentioned.

    Those who are at high risk - such as older adults, people with underlying medical conditions and those who are pregnant - can become severely sick by either and possibly deal with a host of complications such as pneumonia, respiratory failure, and the worsening of chronic medical conditions.

    “Since most people in the U.S. have had at least one COVID infection since the pandemic began, we have essentially transitioned to the endemic phase of COVID-19. Additionally, with the combination of vaccination and naturally immunity, the illness, while still potentially fatal in a declining number of patients, for many has become more a disease of annoyance with milder forms of upper respiratory symptoms of cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, which over-the-counter medications can minimize,” said Frederick,

    “It is important to remember that roughly 2,000 Americans are still dying from COVID every week. The vast majority of these deaths are adults over the age of 65. The more vaccinated the entire population is, the less likely these older adults will be exposed and infected with COVID,” added Legendre.

    NHB is providing flu vaccinations to all eligible beneficiaries at the Immunization Clinic, located on the third floor of the Family Care Center. The flu shot is available on a walk-in basis, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and on Tuesday, from 9:45 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

    The COVID-19 bivalent booster is available by appointment only:

    “As we do every year, we strongly encourage everyone to get the flu vaccine,” said Frederick, echoing CDC concerns. “It is especially important for pregnant women and people with chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, and those that have weakened immune systems.”

    Stopping the spread and protecting patients from the infectious viruses is an ongoing commitment for Puget Sound Military Health System commands such as Naval Hospital Bremerton, along with Madigan Army Medical Center and Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor.

    NHB just provided immediate support with eight corpsmen and two Navy Nurse Corps officers to Madigan to help for over a week treat an overwhelming surge of respiratory illnesses in their emergency room.

    “The COVID-19 vaccination and influenza vaccination not only helps protect vaccinated individuals, but also helps protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of the disease,” added Frederick.



    Date Taken: 12.13.2022
    Date Posted: 12.13.2022 09:54
    Story ID: 435058
    Location: BREMERTON, WA, US

    Web Views: 352
    Downloads: 1