City & Government

‘Tridemic’ not holiday threat, yet 

For the better part of two years, people in our community were isolated. Children didn’t go to school, parents worked from home, and public events were canceled and postponed in an effort to keep people from getting sick.

And that may have been effective, but now another problem has arisen. 

With the holidays approaching, respiratory illness cases are suspected to rise. But this year, influenza, Covid, and RSV pose a possible trifecta of illness threat to Lane County: and our immune systems are not prepared.

“Our immune systems are very naive … It’s not that we’re unfamiliar with seeing disease this time of year. It’s that we are seeing it manifest in a different way,” said Jason Davis, Public Information Officer for Lane County Public Health.

LCPH is seeing less of a clear community-wide peak of disease, and more of smaller peaks of various diseases. 

If communities have high immunity through vaccination or through natural immunity, then peaks of illness are less likely to occur. 

“Our immune systems have forgotten many of the illnesses that are used to fight off with ease,” said Davis. “This is largely due to the fact that communities have not been able to build up immunity for the past two years.

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is also on the rise in our neighboring state of Washington, which could easily pose a threat to Oregon communities like Lane County.

“RSV is something that we don’t have a good vaccine for. It’s also can be very deadly to kids. So we’re worried about that,” said Davis.

Infected persons typically show symptoms of RSV between four and six days after infection. RSV manifests as a bad cold in adults, but for kids, is much more serious. Along with typical upper-respiratory symptoms: runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing and fever, wheezing is the tell-tale sign in little ones. 

This wheezing is what parents need to look out for in their children, according to Davis.

“If that starts to happen, they need to seek care right away,” he said. 

If left untreated, RSV can cause bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and require hospitalization. 

The good news is, right now, hospitalization rates for RSV, as well as influenza are low in Lane County.

“PeaceHealth is seeing an increase in patients with respiratory symptoms seeking care at our clinics in Lane County. However, hospitalizations for influenza and RSV have been low, so the combination of RSV, flu and COVID-19 is not having a major impact on our hospital bed capacity,” said Sherri Buri McDonald, Public Information Officer for Peace Health. 

The bad news is that these trends also make cases difficult to monitor and prevent, since the vast majority of people don’t seek medical care when they contract an upper respiratory virus. Additionally, tests aren’t regularly administered and influenza and RSV are not reportable diseases. 

This in no way means they’re not a problem.

On an annual basis, influenza costs Lane County approximately $11 million on unnecessary outpatient services that could be prevented. The possible solution would be making the disease reportable, but with that comes added work to medical staff, and the fact that the majority of the time people fight influenza on their own. The implications seem to weigh heavier than $11 million. 

As a result, what does get reported is outbreaks, but this is too little too late since a large number of people are already infected. 

So what’s the solution? Unfortunately, in order for our immune systems to be able to learn again, we have to get sick. 

“What we would prefer is that this happens gradually so not everyone’s getting sick all at once. That’s what public health tries to prevent is the societal cost of illness,” said Davis. “The variable that we’re looking out for, though, is the co-infection of Covid and RSV.”

According to OHA, Covid-19 reinfections comprise more than 12% of cases reported to public health in Oregon. Furthermore, reinfections are more likely to occur in people who are not up to date on their vaccinations and less likely to cause severe disease. 

In the last seven days, there have been 21 hospitalizations from Covid and 229 overall cases confirmed by lab testing. This number is likely much higher, as results of home tests are not always reported to the county. 

Through surveillance, “prevention becomes really tough,” said Davis. “The best prevention remains vaccination, both flu and Covid.”

The Valley River Center clinic will re-open this week, offering free Covid boosters and flu shots. The clinic will be accepting walk-in patients from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sundays. The clinic will be offering pediatric vaccines for both COVID and flu as well. Community members are encouraged to bring their insurance card (Oregon Health Plan and private insurance are both accepted).

The LCPH Community Access Center is located inside the Valley River Center Mall (293 Valley River Center), next to the Round 1 Arcade, which is located on River Path side of Valley River Center.



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