Tag Archives: flu

Aaaah-Choo! All The Info On RSV, Flu And COVID

How are you feeling?

If you’re like many Westporters: not great.

A “tripledemic” — COVID, RSV and flu — has slammed our town, and many others.

The other day, Concierge Physicians of Westport sent this information (from the Centers for Disease Control) to patients. 

Chuck Greenlee thought the rest of us non-concierge patients should see it too. CPW graciously agreed. Here you go:

What is RSV?

Respiratory Syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in 1-2 weeks, but RSV can be serious, especially in infants and older adults.

It can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, when you have direct contact with a person who has the virus, such as kissing a baby, or when you touch a surface with the virus on it and then touch your face before washing your hands. People with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days, and can become contagious 2 to 3 days before having symptoms.

Diagnosis: The most common is the rapid diagnostic test. This test looks for RSV RNA in nasal secretions. The results are usually available in 1 hour.

Treatment: Supportive. There are no specific antivirals

Prevention: There are no vaccines against RSV

What is Influenza?

Influenza (“flu”) is a contagious respiratory virus that can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can even lead to death, even in healthy children and adults. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, sore throat, runny nose, body and muscle aches, cough, and less commonly nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

It spreads similarly to RSV.

Diagnosis: Rapid diagnostic tests are becoming the gold standard. Performed by swabbing nasopharyngeal or throat secretions results are available in 15-30 minutes.

Treatment: Specific antiviral flu drugs can decrease the risk of serious complications, hospitalization and death and also shorten the duration of symptoms. Antivirals work best when given within 48 hours of when symptoms appear.

Prevention: The best way to prevent flu is to receive a vaccination every year. The CDC recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get vaccinated annually. The best time to get vaccinated is in the fall, before influenza viruses begin spreading in your community. However, vaccination throughout the flu season is still beneficial.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a viral disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus discovered in 2019. Some people who are infected may not have symptoms. For people who have symptoms, illness can range from mild to severe. Adults 65 years and older and people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness.

The virus spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

Diagnosis: Three main types of tests confirm a COVID-19 diagnosis:

NAATs (such as PCR based tests) are most often performed in a laboratory or clinic setting. They are typically the most reliable tests for people with or without symptoms.

Antigen tests produce results in 15-30 minutes. They are less reliable than NAATs, especially for people who do not have symptoms. To best detect infection, a negative antigen test should be repeated at least 48 hours apart.

Self (or “at-home” tests) are usually antigen tests that can be taken anywhere without having to go to a testing site. Follow FDA and manufacturer’s instructions, including the number of times you may need to test.

Treatment: Depends on the severity of infection and is constantly evolving. There are antiviral drugs for COVID-19.

Prevention: People ages 5 years and older should complete the COVID-19 primary series vaccines and boosters (including mix and match shots) to prevent getting and spreading the illness.

How can I stay healthy?

Avoid contact with people who are sick. If you need to be around a sick individual, wear a well fitting mask (N95 or surgical) and make sure to cover your mouth and nose.

Stay home if you have symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand rub that contains 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

VACCINATE yourself against influenza and COVID.

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COVID, Flu, RSV: Looking Ahead To Winter

Right now, Bridgeport Hospital is caring for 30 COVID patients.

That’s down drastically from the height of the pandemic, when they filled 300 beds.

Most of us no longer wear masks. We’ve stopped social distancing; we gather once again in large groups, and greet relatives and friends with hugs and kisses.

But we would be foolish to let our guards down too much and too fast, says Zane Saul.

He should know. The 32-year resident of Westport and Weston is Bridgeport Hospital’s chief of infectious diseases.

Dr. Zane Saul

He was on the front lines, when the coronavirus roared across the globe. He remembers those early days of terror, confusion, and the all-hands-on-deck, throw-whatever-we’ve-got-at-it approach that was all he and his colleagues could do for nearly a year, until vaccines were developed, produced and shipped.

Now, he says, most people in this area have been vaccinated. That, along with monoclonal antibodies, means that although people still contract COVID, they’re not as sick as before.

They’re not intubated as often. They’re not dying as much.

Dr. Saul says a very obese, unvaccinated woman was admitted this fall to Bridgeport Hospital. She spent several weeks on a respirator.

But she made it. Two years ago, she would not have.

Now, the weather is turning cold. People spend more time indoors. We’re excited for the first big holiday gatherings in 3 years.

The number of COVID cases will rise again, Dr. Saul says.

It’s not back. It never left.

So will diagnoses of flu and respiratory syncytial virus — RSV, which is especially dangerous to infants and young children. Bridgeport Hospital’s pediatric wing is already full of young RSV patients, Dr. Saul says.

The reason for the triple rise is simple. After 2 years of masks — which limited the spread of not only COVID, but other diseases — we are once again breathing on and close to each other.

What can we do?

“Get a flu shot!” Dr. Saul urges. “It’s effective. The match to this year’s strain is very good.

“If you’re sick, stay home. COVID quarantine is only 5 days now. Basic handwashing is important too.”

Dr. Zane Saul says …

And of course: Get your vaccines and booster shots.

Dr. Saul knows that “COVID fatigue” is real. He understands that people are tired of hearing they should get yet another booster vaccine.

But they should.

“I can’t blame them for how they feel,” Dr. Saul says. “Still, COVID isn’t gone. The latest variant lasts longer. It’s not a walk in the park.

“But with vaccines and boosters, you won’t get as sick. You won’t get hospitalized. You won’t die.”

Dr. Saul began training in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. For years, patients died. Then in 1995, “cocktail” medications became available. HIV is now a manageable disease.

He thought AIDS was the worst he’d ever see. Three decades later, he faced the “exhausting and terrifying” COVID pandemic.

Though everyone is eager to get back to their pre-2020 lives, the threat remains.

So, Dr. Saul says: Be smart. Take advice seriously.

And “listen to science. Science is good. It’s gotten us to where we are now.”

Which — even in Bridgeport Hospital — is a pretty good place.

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Bridgeport Hospital