Ontario County Public Health Director Mary Beer says the numbers of people who have influenza, COVID and RSV aren’t being counted anymore, but she’s hearing from providers, hospitals and urgent care centers that there is a lot of virus going around.
“We got the trifecta going on out there so there are a lot of viruses out there and people need to be aware of that,” Beer explained.
How can you stay safe?
“The very first thing is to remember the basics, to wash their hands,” Beer said. “We hope people got into that habit over the past few years. Think about wearing a mask especially if you’re going to be indoors with a lot of individuals.”
Beer said if you’re sick, stay home.
“Don’t be out spreading it, especially to anyone who might be immunosuppressed, or is older and has underlying health diseases,” Beer urged. “It used to be that we were tough. You’d get a cold or the Flu and the minute you could, you’d go back to work, still sick and able to transmit. But the message really is, please be careful and be thoughtful of others. There’s a double-edged sword of wanting to get back to work, but at the same time trying to keep people safe. Wear your mask if you’re going to be at a high-intense area.”
What’s the difference between Influenza, COVID, and RSV?
“They present very similar symptoms, upper respiratory,” Beer explained. “The RSV hits little children because their immune systems aren’t that developed when they’re very young and there’s no vaccine for that at this time. So they’re at the most risk. Most people who get RSV will recover well, but it’s the children that are at risk so you want to be very careful about keeping them safe.”
In terms of the Flu and COVID, Beer added symptoms can be similar, mild to severe. “We still have people that are dying,” Beer said. “Every year people die from Flu and we are still seeing people die from COVID. Right now most people are experiencing mild symptoms from COVID but you don’t want to risk it, especially if you have underlying issues.”
Beer said it’s hard to tell what you could have before a diagnoses or a test.
“You probably really can’t,” Beer said. “You need to take the test to know which one you have. They have tests for the Flu and Covid. If it’s not that, they may test you for RSV as well. We also see more testing being done for RSV this year because of the trifecta I was talking about.”
How overwhelmed are hospitals and medical facilities?
“The hospitals are busy, the urgent care centers are busy, the doctor’s offices are busy,” Beer said. “And it’s also earlier this year than normal. We don’t usually see a lot of Flu right before Thanksgiving. It’s usually after the holiday mix that we start seeing those numbers start going up, but we did definitely see it earlier this year.”
“They’re (medical facilities) definitely working very hard,” Beer insisted. “One of the challenges we’re already having, throughout nursing homes and hospitals, and all throughout healthcare, is that we have a shortage of healthcare workers. So on top of having an already challenging time, when one of your staff gets sick and can’t come to work, that just compounds the challenges the hospitals are having.”
So what does she expect to see happen when the holidays are in full swing?
“We expect that the numbers will go up as people get together for the holidays,” Beer said. “We’re hoping that between the vaccinations and people already having had the disease they might have some antibodies so we’re hoping for the best.”
Rebecca is a veteran multimedia journalist serving as one of our core reporters in the Finger Lakes region. She is responsible for telling stories that matter to every day Upstate New Yorkers. Have a question or lead? Send it to [email protected].