Missouri experiences increase in respiratory viruses as winter looms

(Source: Pexels)
(Source: Pexels)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Like the majority of the United States, Missouri has been experiencing increased respiratory disease activity caused by multiple viruses, including flu and RSV that is occurring especially among children.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is now offering free testing for flu, RSV and SARS-CoV-2 (virus causing COVID-19) at several Missouri locations through March 2023. A single nasal swab will allow for detection of these three viruses. Patients of all ages can be tested. A map of locations and the sites’ schedules can be found at health.mo.gov/communitytest. Additional sites will continue to be added.

“Although cases overall have not increased in severity, the increased volume has caused a strain on our health care partners,” said Dr. George Turabelidze, state epidemiologist with DHSS. “Ultimately, we need families to remember how important it is that they stay home when sick. Also, we are fortunate to have vaccines available for flu and COVID-19, and it’s important to stay up to date on these.”

For the week of Oct. 30 through Nov. 5, there were 1,738 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu, compared to 1,280 cases the week before, bringing the statewide total for the season which began October 2, to 4,016 cases. While RSV is not a reportable condition to DHSS in Missouri, CDC tracks state-level trends that show an increase in RSV detections in Missouri.

The flu and COVID-19 have many similar symptoms including cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue (tiredness), sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches and headaches.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms including fever, cough, congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and in infants, fussiness and poor feeding. It can progress to more severe symptoms such as fast or short breathing or wheezing, and in infants and young children, grunting noises when breathing or chest caving in during breathing. While persons of any age can develop RSV, it is most common in children under age 2 and can be severe, especially for infants and older adults. Most people will recover in one to two weeks.

If you are sick, the best thing to do is avoid being around others and seek testing to determine next steps. If patients have preexisting health conditions or severe symptoms, treatment may be needed, and each virus requires a different approach. Indoor gatherings, which are common in the fall and winter, provide more opportunities for the transmission of respiratory viruses. Handwashing and staying up to date on vaccinations are some of the best ways to prevent the spread of viruses.

Some Missouri hospitals are experiencing strain right now due to this increased viral activity. DHSS reminds Missourians to only use the emergency room in the event of actual emergencies.

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