Flu, COVID, RSV all causing issues for public


Despite a “little bit” of an infection and disease increase in Highland County, it looks to be at about where the county would normally be for its five-year average, according to Highland County Health Commissioner Jared Warner.

Warner said that “over the last week or so,” an increase has been seen in influenza-like illnesses, which he said “probably” incorporates COVID-19, flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

He said the three viruses, however, have completely different ways that they are reported to the health department.

For COVID-19, he said positive COVID-19 tests done at a health care facility get reported to the health department so it knows those numbers, but he also said at-home COVID-19 tests are not reported.

For flu cases, Warner said they are only reported to the health department if people get hospitalized.

For RSV, he said the virus doesn’t get reported to the health department “at all.” He said the health department “is left looking” at symptomatic monitoring at hospitals in the region or the state and their reports on general influenza-like illnesses in those areas.

Erin Mustard, director of nursing at the Highland County Health Department, said RSV is a common respiratory virus that causes mild cold-like symptoms. She said it can cause illnesses in people of all ages but can get more serious in babies and older adults.

“So, infants generally below a year, premature babies, kids that have chronic, disease, lung issues, heart disease, weak immune systems, they’re more likely to get RSV,” Mustard said. “And then the same can be said for adults with some of those chronic conditions, older adults, people that have those chronic conditions are also at a high risk.”

Mustard said RSV spreads from droplets from sneezing or coughing and touching surfaces with the virus on it. She also said people “generally” recover but that it can also cause inflammation in the airways and lead to pneumonia.

As far as COVID-19 in Highland County, Warner it had a “bit of a spike” with hospitalizations at the start of the year, but that there has been a drop-off since then. However, Mustard said “that would be expected” after the first of the year because were in groups together during the holidays.

In terms of treatment or prevention, Warner said the health department is focused more on prevention prior to the patient’s even getting to a health care facility. He said that means a focus on vaccination and trying to stop the viruses from spreading. He said all three of the viruses have vaccines that could stop them from spreading or give people who get the viruses a milder version of them.

“And then the message that we preach every year around this time of year,” Warner said. “If you are sick, please stay home. Because the more people are out there when they don’t feel good and they’re spreading these diseases to their neighbors and friends and co-workers and so forth. And so that’s one of the reasons we see these spikes in illnesses is because people are out there not feeling good and still doing life as normal. So, we just encourage people if you feel sick, take a couple of days off, give yourself a chance to feel better, wait until you have been fever-free for 24 hours and then get back to normal after that.”

Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.

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