COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Flu season has started, but the flu isn’t the only thing you could catch this year.
Three respiratory illnesses are hitting Missouri and the rest of the nation: Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infection and COVID-19.
“This is, at the moment, a little bit of an unprecedented surge in RSV. The timing is a little bit off. It started early, it has continued to strengthen,” said Dr. Laura Morris, who is an MU Health Care family medicine physician. “I anticipate influenza cases will continue to rise and I think we're all holding our breath a little bit to see exactly what will happen with COVID cases over the next few months.”
The Boone County Health Department recorded 219 reported cases of influenza this season and Cole County has reported 114. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports a total of 4,016 influenza cases for Missouri’s 2022-2023 season so far.
Morris said MU Health Care has seen an almost doubling in influenza cases over the past couple of weeks.
Reports of COVID-19 cases are low, but health officials say that doesn’t mean it couldn’t rise again.
“It's very difficult to tell the difference just on the surface from the symptoms of whether or not a sick person has RSV,” Morris said. “Whether they might have influenza, whether they might have COVID or another potential virus because many other respiratory illnesses are passing around right now as well.”
RSV is more commonly found in children under the age of two, but a person any age can catch it. It usually causes symptoms like a cold, fever, coughing or sneezing. More severe symptoms include wheezing or issues with breathing.
The flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, such as a sore throat, coughing, a stuffed or runny nose and headaches.
But the best way to differentiate is to get tested.
“We spent so much time working on ways to prevent COVID, that we very effectively prevented other viruses,” Morris added. “Because our population as a whole hasn't been exposed to influenza recently, there's a drop in immunity.”
Officials say precautions adopted during the pandemic like washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and staying away from being in small spaces with others you know are sick can help keep you and your family healthy this season.