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Health officials are seeing higher flu cases now - and yes, Covid - and expect to see many more in the coming weeks. Doctors are urging parents to vaccinate themselves and their children as soon as possible.
They are revisiting the big challenge with a "triple threat" – influenza, COVID, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).*
The safety precautions taken throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with mandates to wear masks and practice social distancing, also protected people from respiratory illnesses like the flu. Many people are complacent and do not recognize the virus's effect on the community.
Although COVID-19 safety precautions helped to prevent people from catching respiratory illnesses, they also prevented people from building up their immune systems. With fewer people wearing masks now and more coming into closer contact, illnesses will rise.
Dr Williams, Pediatrician at SFCHC, repeats the chorus of doctorly advice: get vaccinated as soon as possible and be especially concerned for your young children and Seniors.
"I know that children are supposed to get out there and play, touch, explore … it's an important part of their development," Williams said. "And one of the best things we can do is provide them with a vaccine to protect them while they're exposed."
- Dr. Anastasia Williams
Williams also said that there is still some hesitation and concern about vaccines and wants to assure parents that they are beneficial to their child's health.
"In my 25 years of practicing medicine, I do not know anyone, particularly any child, who has died from the flu vaccine. I don't know any person who has died from the COVID vaccine. Not one," Williams said. "I know several families who have lost children from the flu. I know many children who have been hospitalized because of the flu … I think it's clear that the benefits of being vaccinated clearly outweigh the risks of not being vaccinated."
Each of the three respiratory illnesses shares similar symptoms — fever, cough, headache, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, and diarrhea. Williams explained that the flu starts in the East before moving to the West. By observing the flu strain early on, medical experts can prepare a flu vaccine that combats that strain.
RSV is a Big Risk to Infants, Pregnant Women, and Those Over 60
RSV and the newest Covid variant are some of the more significant risks in the winter surge. The good news is that there is now a vaccine for RSV, and SFCHC is distributing it. Although RSV cases tend to be mild for older children and adults, they can become severe for infants, pregnant women, and seniors. It's best to be cautious and prevent or minimize infections.
Williams said that RSV in infants causes a buildup of inflammation, phlegm, and mucus that their bodies are not big enough to handle. These problems could lead to bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the lung's small airways.
If your child gets the flu and their symptoms don't improve over the next few days, Williams advises parents on where to get the most appropriate care.
If your child has a fever for more than three days, has difficulty catching their breath, or has a cold lasting more than a week, it is best to seek care from your child's pediatrician or a family doctor. The same advice goes for parents of children with chronic medical conditions, as Williams said, it's best to go to someone who knows your child. If the child stops breathing and they're gasping for air, call 911.
For infants, Williams said that it's vital that they stay hydrated. The infant should be able to wet their diaper every eight to 10 hours. If they can't, it's a sign that the infant is dehydrated, and you should call your doctor. If the infant is crying nonstop, called inconsolable irritability, call your doctor or go to urgent care.
For babies with RSV, Williams advised using a humidifier to keep the air moist and to use a bulb to suction the mucus out of their nose with normal saline, especially before feeding them. If their symptoms continue to worsen, seek care from the child's pediatrician or go to urgent care.
"If you are at increased risk for infection or illness, such as a newborn baby or if you have a chronic illness that affects your immune system, then you should still avoid being in crowded indoor spaces and wear masks when you can," Williams said. "I think the flu vaccine and the COVID vaccine are important ways for us to protect ourselves from these infections that can make us very ill and sometimes even be deadly."
*For more information on infections in the local community now:
Southern California dealing with a trio of viruses this winter — and yes, one of them is COVID:
Get your children - ages 6 months and older - vaccinated against COVID and Flu.
Also, book an appointment for yourself to receive the Flu vaccine. Keep your family and community safe.
San Fernando Community Health Center serves insured and uninsured individuals. Call 818-963-5690 to schedule an appointment today!
Updated from a 2022 interview with Dr. Anastasia Williams