Respiratory illnesses surge in the new year as doctors treat flu, COVID-19, and RSV

ByLeland Pinder WPVI logo
Wednesday, January 3, 2024
Respiratory illnesses surge as doctors treat flu, COVID, and RSV
Respiratory illnesses surge in the new year as doctors treat flu, COVID-19, and RSV

VOORHEES TWP., New Jersey (WPVI) -- Travel respiratory illness numbers are going up across the Philadelphia region following holiday gatherings.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of December 29, flu activity is minimal in Delaware, high in Pennsylvania, and very high in New Jersey.

The latest data from the New Jersey Department of Health shows every corner of the state is affected, with more than 19,000 cases reported since early October, and more than 6,000 in just the past week.

Action News asked Dr. Charles Nolte, Virtua Health medical director, why New Jersey is currently faring the worst in the region.

SEE ALSO: RSV in winter: Everything you need to know about symptoms, treatments, shots

"It's hard to predict why that happened but I can tell you feeling it in the department. I've been practicing emergency medicine for 19 years and this does feel like it's the highest volume. I think it's the confluence of having those three viruses at the same time," Dr. Nolte said.

Flu, COVID-19 and RSV are all circulating right now. While the surge in sickness is expected this time of year, Nolte said the volume of patients and battling these three viruses at once is unique.

Doctors say their guidance remains the same: staying home at even the slightest inclination you may be getting sick, wearing a mask, washing your hands and getting vaccinated are among your best defenses against illness.

"It's not too late to be vaccinated, so if you haven't been vaccinated for COVID-19 or influenza and you're not currently having symptoms, it is your best interest to seek vaccination," Nolte said.

Additionally, Nolte said it's important for those with underlying medical conditions or comorbidities to be especially thoughtful as they go about their day-to-day routine as they're more susceptible to illness than the average person.

For now, Virtua Health is requiring doctors and staff to wear masks. It's highly recommended but optional for patients.

SEE ALSO: RSV, flu and COVID-19: How can you tell the difference? Doctor explains

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Nolte anticipates another spike in illness and an even higher volume of patients in the weeks ahead.

In order to relive activity in emergency departments at hospitals, if you think you might have the flu, COVID-19, or RSV, he recommends visiting an urgent care facility or checking with your family doctor first.

"If you feel like you have a viral-like illness, fever, chills, headache, cough, and cold, there's other resources besides emergency departments where you can get care. Having that little bit of self-triage can offload emergency departments," Nolte said.