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Physician urges community to watch out for respiratory viruses this holiday season

An IU Health physician says they're seeing an increase in COVID, RSV, and the flu.

INDIANAPOLIS — The holidays are here and with them, the chance to catch more than just the holiday spirit. 

“Especially around this whole winter, but especially around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, all these times when we’re having people, they’re going to be together, they’re going to be in closed areas, they’re going to be a little less careful and protective around it, we know these are going to have significant rates of infection,” said Dr. Ethan Blocher-Smith, a primary care physician at IU Health

Blocher-Smith said he’s been seeing an increase in cases of three viruses lately: COVID, RSV and the flu.

“The alarm is being sounded, especially around what’s going on with flu. Everybody’s been thinking COVID, but this flu season looks to be particularly bad,” said Blocher-Smith    

And it’s just getting started. 

“We’re seeing significant trending above what we would expect for this early in the season,” Blocher-Smith explained. 

Then there’s COVID, still doing its thing, with two new variants emerging recently and a new booster to combat them. 

“We can’t ever make infection zero, unfortunately, because it reproduces so quickly, but we can definitely reduce the rates of death and hospitalization,” he said. 

When it comes to RSV, infectious disease doctors at Riley Hospital for Children say their numbers are peaking 

“There’s a lot of children’s hospitals whose ICUs are already full with kids in severe respiratory distress from RSV, and it looks like it’s going to be a bad RSV year as well,” said Blocher-Smith. 

So what can you do?   

If you’re thinking of getting vaccinated before heading to Thanksgiving dinner, don’t count on that protecting you for turkey day, said Blocher-Smith. 

He said it takes about two weeks for the body to make antibodies to fight off viruses like COVID and the flu. Blocher-Smith advises avoiding people who may be sick, washing your hands regularly, not sharing utensils during meals and getting tested as soon as possible if you don’t feel well. 

And should you get sick and end up at a doctor’s office or urgent care, expect to wait your turn to get help. 

“Bear with us," Blocher-Smith siad. "It’s going to be a rough winter."


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