Pediatrician advises precautions as RSV and flu are rampant

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are excited to return to their Thanksgiving traditions after two years of restrictions under the coronavirus pandemic. But just because COVID-19 isn’t that common doesn’t mean we don’t need to take precautions.

“In recent years, the main thing we were concerned about was COVID in terms of the spread of the family party,” said Dr. Per Gesteland, a pediatric hospital physician at Primary Children’s Hospital and the University of Utah Health.

This year there are fewer concerns about COVID-19, he said, but more concerns about RSV and the flu. At the moment, those viruses are still sending children to the hospital.

“We survive here,” Gesteland said, referring to the Primary Children’s Hospital. “We had 95-100% capacity and it’s definitely busy.”

We are facing a viral blizzard, he said.

Gesteland helped create high risk 20 years ago, which shows us that RSV and flu are on the rise in much of the state today. RSV can be particularly hard on children, the elderly, and those at high risk for health problems.

“It started in October and really took off,” the doctor said. “The slope before our outbreak last year was a little bit softer. This year it’s a very steep slope, which indicates very rapid transmission through our communities.”

The flu is just beginning to pick up in Utah and has lagged the rise in hospitalizations in other states.

“We expect things to get worse for a few weeks from now before we start to see a break in our flu activity,” Gesteland said.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has still hospitalized more than 120 people across the country.

On average, one person still dies every day from complications related to COVID-19.

“COVID is still here and it is certainly still causing problems,” the doctor said.

Gatherings of healthy people should be fine this holiday, he said. If you or your children are sick, stay home and avoid contact with vulnerable people. He advises washing our hands regularly and avoiding close contact with anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in getting people vaccinated against COVID,” Gesteland said. “So we all feel a little bit better, especially vulnerable populations.”


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