5 Things You Need to Know About the Flu, RSV

By Ernst Lamothe Jr.

Not to be taken lightly, the flu has been overshadowed during the past few years because of COVID-19. However flu-related illnesses have risen dramatically this season causing hospital system strain and an abundance of sick children and adults before expected.

“Everybody has had COVID-19 overload, but there are other things that we have to protect ourselves against. Flu should be on the top of the list,” said Mary Bucher, senior registered nurse at Oswego Health. “We have gone back to not wearing masks and everyone is back out together. People have been hearing about COVID-19 for more than two years and people just forgot about how the flu can affect this season as well.”

Bucher, who is also an associate professor of medicine, gives five facts about the flu and viruses.

1. Most vulnerable

Most people with the flu get better on their own. However, influenza can be serious, and with complications, can be deadly. People who are at higher risk of developing flu complications include children younger than 2, adults older than 65, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities or those with weakened immune systems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“We have to protect people like our older residents and kids. They are quite vulnerable to the flu and can have deadly results,” Bucher said. “Some years the flu is stronger than other years.”

2. Myths

Many misconceptions revolve around the flu. She said she often hears conspiracy theories, but the most often statement involves the flu shot.

“People think the flu shot will give you the flu,” said Bucher. “It is a dead virus that gets injected and it does not give you the flu. If you start feeling sick or run down sometimes people don’t realize that maybe you were sick a few days before the shot as well.”

Mary Bucher is a senior registered nurse at Oswego Health

3. Flu shot

Flu vaccines, often called flu shots, are vaccines that protect against the four influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Most flu vaccines are flu shots given with a needle. But there also is a nasal spray flu vaccine.

“We know the flu vaccine is never going to be 100% effective. Either way, if you do have future flu symptoms, the symptoms will be lessened because you had the shot,” said Bucher. “Something is better than nothing when it comes to your immunity.”

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are encouraged to be vaccinated. Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in healthy women who aren’t pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women and women who have given birth during the past two weeks more prone to severe illness from flu, including illness resulting in hospitalization.

4. Cold vs Flu

Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms, feeling fever/chills, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Colds are usually milder than flu. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections or hospitalizations. Flu can have serious associated complications.

“People will have regular, light symptoms when it comes to the flu, but having a fever is a high indication that it could be more severe. Fever is generally the first thing you feel,” Bucher said.

The best way to avoid either are the simple tips that were given during COVID-19.

“The easiest way is to wash your hands regularly. Keep your hands away from your eyes and mouth,” added Bucher. “We tell people when they are sick they should stay home. The first 24 to 48 hours is critical when it comes to any illness. If you don’t stay home you have the opportunity to go out in the community and spread the virus.”

5. RSV

Respiratory syncytial virus is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two. But RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. It has been a hot medical topic because of the number of children that have been hospitalized this early fall. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis in younger adults, which is inflammation of the small airways in the lung and pneumonia, which is infections in the lung.

Each year in the United States, RSV leads to about 2.1 million outpatient visits among children younger than 5 and between 58,000-80,000 hospitalizations among children younger than 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Nationwide you are seeing a rise in these and other causes which are leading to children in the hospital,” said Buhcer.