North FL Hospital official says flu and RSV cases spike as COVID-19 precautions relax

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 6:55 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - It’s that time of year when flu season kicks into gear, but this year health experts are urging people to keep an eye out for more than just the flu and COVID-19.

“We do expect increased hospitalizations because of the flu. I think we’re already seeing that... and in RSV, which is a virus that’s been around for a while now,” said Sean Benoit, Chief Medical Officer, North Florida Hospital.

According to the Florida Department of Health, RSV season began in September in North Central Florida. Benoit said it’s impacting more people this year than it has over the last two years.

“Maybe we’ll take a flu shot, wear a face mask, do anything we can,” said Lena Lane, parent.

The last two flu seasons overlapped with the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time where cases were more prevalent.

“A lot of people wore masks last year for COVID, and masks are one of the best way to prevent the spread of infections. So many people did not get the flu,” said Benoit.

He said with COVID-19 mitigation efforts, like masking and social distancing, now more relaxed, flu and RSV cases are spiking.

Earlier this month, FDOH officials released this statement, saying they are monitoring an above average number of RSV cases. However, the website does not specify what that number is.

Benoit said it’s not unusual for people who are immunocompromised to get a combination of respiratory viruses.

“I have a four year old little granddaughter who has Down Syndrome so we’re already real careful to make sure her heart and lungs are healthy,” said Terry Westing, grandparent. “We would really feel bad if she were sick because it would be something we’d have to watch and avoid hospitalization.”

Symptoms of RSV may include wheezing and shallow breathing, among others, according to FDOH.

Benoit said wearing a mask and social distancing mitigates not only COVID-19, but many other respiratory viruses.

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