Health department urges caution as respiratory diseases continue to spread

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Jan. 23—The triple threat of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 have caused an increase in hospitalizations across the country. In Cass County, the combination of viruses has resulted in an increase in illnesses and a decrease in cold and flu medicine in stores.

"It's hard to distinguish them without testing," Cass County Health Educator Debbie Grimes said. "They're all treated the same. They're all viral."

According to data from The New York Times, Indiana reported 2,960 new COVID cases Jan. 18. However, the Indiana Department of Health reported Jan. 17 that hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID have decreased. During the first week of January, Cass County reported 94 new cases of COVID-19. The number of new cases decreased to 42 during the week of Jan. 12 and is currently around 17.

While the county and state are seeing a decrease in COVID cases, RSV and influenza are still rampant. According to WFYI, the state saw 82 deaths from influenza last year. This year, the Indiana Department of Health said influenza has caused at least 132 deaths so far this flu season.

RSV has also been a concern. Grimes said that while many people think of RSV as especially dangerous for babies, it can be deadly for people in all age demographics.

"People think that RSV is just dangerous for children, but it's people with a weakened immune system," she said. "It's young people and old people and anyone with a compromised immune system."

Grimes said any respiratory virus can lead to further complications even in healthy adults. She advised people to take precautions to stay healthy.

"They can lead to pneumonia and other things," she said. "People just need to continue washing their hands frequently, wearing their masks, limiting their exposure to crowds and people and cleaning surfaces the same as they did during the pandemic. It hasn't really stopped."