Not just COVID: Cases of winter illnesses already increasing among kids across Bay Area

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Thursday, October 20, 2022
Cases of winter illnesses already increasing among Bay Area kids
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Hospitals across the country and the Bay Area are seeing an increase in winter-related illnesses in kids, already in the month of October.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Hospitals across the country are seeing an increase in what are usually winter-related illnesses already in the month of October.

Don't let our current warm weather fool you, cold and flu season is already upon us.

While COVID fears are plateauing for some, doctors are warning the community about the early reemergence of certain seasonal illnesses.

"This particular surge of standard winter viruses that's occurring in October is unusual," Stanford Children's Health Critical Care physician Dr. Alan Schroeder said.

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"COVID causes something called viral interference with other viruses, so you can't have both going on at the same time," UCSF Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Monica Gandhi said. "So last time we were in a major COVID lull was May 2021, when we saw the rise of other viruses, including RSV. And now we're seeing the same phenomenon."

Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV are already rising dramatically in the East Coast.

The Connecticut Children's Medical Center has set up a tent unit on its lawn because they are out of beds.

Locally, Dr. Schroeder says his hospital is also seeing an unseasonable increase in illnesses.

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"Not only quite a bit more RSV, but quite a bit more of the other standard winter viruses as well," Dr. Schroeder said. "Something called rhinovirus is something we've been seeing for a good six weeks or so. And then the RSV surge has really been the last couple of weeks."

Dr. Schroeder says parents need to look for common symptoms of RSV such as coughing and runny nose and more serious symptoms like trouble breathing.

But it's not just kids who are at-risk, Dr.Gandhi says kids can spread RSV to adults as well.

"We need to be aware that it's RSV and not something else," Dr. Gandhi said. "We need to test, we need to think about it and think about the extremes of age being the most susceptible - often children who are immunocompromised are more susceptible. We're on alert, everyone is on alert now and we need to remember it's not all COVID."

MORE: New omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 could lead COVID winter surge, expert says

These doctors say it's important not to be fearful, but smart

Most of these winter viruses can spread easily through touch.

Taking precautions like proper handwashing and testing, as well as getting a flu shot can make our winter better.

Dr. Gandhi says a RSV vaccine is also in the works for vulnerable groups.

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