There’s something in the air. Or, to be more accurate, there are three things in the air.
COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, are hitting hard in the Spokane area, health officials say.
“Some people are calling it the ‘tridemic,’ ” said Kelli Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Spokane Regional Health District. “Whether it’s influenza, RSV or COVID-19, what’s really tricky is they all have similar symptoms.”
Spokane Public Schools saw a noticeable decline in daily attendance last week, with about 10-15% below the typical 90% daily attendance , a school official said.
Influenza hospitalizations this year increased dramatically, with 48 reported since October in Spokane County, according to the health district. There were zero flu hospitalizations in Spokane County last year, in part due to the more strict COVID-19 guidelines that were in place.
“People have let their guard down, but now these viruses have found their way in,” Hawkins said.
Flu hospitalizations in 2022 are also higher this time of year than they were in the last flu season before the pandemic in 2018-19, according to the local health district data. This is likely due to the cold weather bringing more people indoors earlier in the year, Hawkins said.
So far, two people have died of influenza in Spokane County, the health district reported.
During the 2018-19 season, 26 people in Spokane County died of the flu, according to the Washington Department of Health.
Unlike COVID-19 or influenza, RSV can be harder to track because it is not a reportable virus. However, the Center for Disease Control shows that RSV detection in Washington more than doubled in November compared to the previous season.
The virus, which is particularly hard on children under 2 and adults over 65, follows a predictable seasonal pattern that was disrupted by 2020’s pandemic precautions, Dr. Francisco R. Velázquez, regional health officer, wrote in an editorial for The Spokesman-Review on Sunday.
“With either waning or absent immunity, due to either a decrease in the usual exposure patterns or an actual absence of exposure, viruses may move through the community with minimal resistance,” he wrote. “The result is the high levels of clinical disease we are experiencing.”
Angie Corigliano, a pharmacist at the Rosauers on 29th Avenue, said she and her colleagues have been inundated with more sick customers than usual. She doesn’t know all of the diagnoses but said most customers have been in for upper-respiratory infections.
Medicine such as Tamiflu, which is used to treat influenza, as well as amoxicillin, which is an antibiotic, have been in short supply, she said. Liquid Tylenol for children was also becoming hard to come by at the pharmacy where she works, she said.
“It’s crazy right now,” she said. “The weekends are hard because we’re getting a lot of (prescriptions) from urgent care because of this kind of stuff.”
Hawkins said she has heard similar reports.
There were 326 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Spokane County last week, which is down by 55% compared to this time last year. Spokane reached an all-time high of about 7,000 confirmed cases for the week of Jan. 15 this year.
The most important thing to do is to stay home if you are feeling sick, Hawkins said. Test yourself for COVID-19 and notify your doctor if you test positive, she said. Hawkins also recommended getting vaccinated for both COVID-19 and influenza. RSV does not have a vaccine.
Washing your hands frequently, regularly disinfecting surfaces, avoiding touching your face, and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze will also help reduce the spread of diseases, she said. Hawkins also encouraged people to wear masks in crowded public places.
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