Health & Wellness

Viruses on the rise

With an uptick in holiday gatherings, a wave of illness anticipated by health officials is rolling in with full force. Monkeypox has made its first reappearance in Lane County since September, while RSV and influenza cases are skyrocketing,  according to area health officials. 

“The Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is spreading rapidly through our community and influenza is also starting to get worse,” said Jason Davis, public information officer for Lane County Public Health. PeaceHealth hospitals are seeing a large number of patients with RSV in its outpatient clinics and emergency departments throughout the county.

“People are aware of the spike in RSV, and we’re hearing from a lot of families who have questions and concerns,” said Dr. Serena Black, a pediatric hospitalist at RiverBend.

Oregon Health Authority data shows that the RSV hospitalization rate for children quadrupled between Oct. 29 and Nov. 19, from 2.7 to 10.8 children per 100,000 population. RSV hospitalizations are expected to continue to rise in the next few weeks.

RSV is a common, contagious airborne virus that causes infections of the respiratory tract. 

In adults, RSV appears and can be treated like a common cold, featuring the typical cough and runny nose. For babies and elderly adults, though, it can be serious. 

Governor Kate Brown last month declared a state of emergency due to the high rate of RSV in children in an attempt to “give hospitals additional flexibility to staff beds for children, allow them to draw on a pool of medical volunteer nurses and doctors and take other steps to provide care to pediatric patients.” 

Oregon has been seeing an acute shortage of beds in pediatric units with the rise of RSV, and state health officials recommend that people stay home when sick, cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow, clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces, regularly wash hands, wear a mask in crowded spaces and get a flu shot and stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. There is no vaccine for RSV.

“The elderly also are at risk of complications from RSV,” said Dr. Margaret Pattison, medical director of the emergency department at RiverBend. “Older adults should be evaluated by a health care provider if they’re having trouble breathing, are dehydrated, or are feeling extremely weak.”

Influenza, the notorious winter viral infection, is also worse than years before, and is also fueling high hospitalization rates. Given that many were not able to build up their immune systems the last two years, Davis said that influenza is running rampant. 

“A larger than average number of people are coming into clinics and emergency rooms with Influenza,” said Davis.

Influenza symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue. Typically, those infected do not seek medical care and use over the counter medicine. However young children, older adults, and people with weak immune systems are at high risk. 

But there is a silver lining. Almost all the cases providers are seeing are Type A influenza cases, H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes, which both are in this year’s flu shot. 

According to OHA’s weekly influenza surveillance report, the percentage of positive influenza tests has doubled each week since mid-October – it was 1% the week ending Oct. 22, 2% on Oct. 29, 4.5% on Nov. 5, 9.3% on Nov. 12 and 16.4% on Nov. 19.

A 5% positivity rate for influenza tests is considered a threshold for significant influenza circulation, which means Oregon is over triple the significant threshold.

“For folks still considering getting their flu shot, this year, we believe the effectiveness is better than average this year.”

Lane County may face another wave of financial impact due to sickness. Many employees are seeing a higher rate of employees calling out sick and family income may also suffer from being out of work. LCPH expects this year’s financial impact to be higher than previous winter seasons, Davis said.

To help create space for urgent health issues in the hospital, PeaceHealth Oregon is asking those with non-emergency cases to seek care with their primary care doctor or at an urgent care clinic.

Four cases of Monkeypox (MPXV) have also been identified in the county — the first cases identified since Sept. 12.

“We have been very fortunate that we have not seen more” cases, said Dr. Patrick Luedtke, Lane County senior public health officer. “However, these latest cases clearly demonstrate that it is still present and infecting people, highlighting the need for continued awareness and preventive practices.”

The LCPH Communicable Disease program is conducting case investigations to identify additional individuals who may have been exposed.



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos