Maricopa County warns public of rising COVID, flu, and RSV cases
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- If you’re noticing more people getting sick this holiday season, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) says you’re not alone.
On Friday, the county health department issued a public health warning as cases of illness, including COVID-19, the flu and RSV, are much higher than usual for this time of year. Health officials are asking the community to vaccinate themselves against COVID and flu boosters which are widely available at Valley pharmacies and drug stores. Experts are warning that cases could continue to increase as families gather for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas and into the new year.
“Respiratory viruses can cause severe disease, especially in infants, young children, and older adults,” said Dr. Nick Staab, a medical epidemiologist at MCDPH. “It is concerning to see so many cases before many holiday gatherings and travel have even happened. We are already seeing a strain on our healthcare systems.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of the flu are now considered “widespread,” which is designated as the agency’s highest level of virus spread. National health officials say they’re recommending people mask up indoors while out in public. RSV, which tends to make children particularly ill, is now more than two times higher than the average peak, according to MCDPH.
Arizona’s Family was the first to report that COVID & flu cases have been rising since the start of the summer season. Last week, Arizona’s Family Elliott Polak reported that Arizona is the only state that has medium/high COVID-19 levels in all its counties. Eight counties, including heavily populated Maricopa County, have high transmission levels.
Hospitalizations are peaking too. “Over the last two and a half weeks we’ve seen about a 60% increase in patients hospitalized that carry the disease of COVID-19,” Dr. Michael White, the Chief Clinical Officer at Valleywise Health told Arizona’s Family’s Alexis Dominguez.
A number of Valley healthcare systems are taking matters into their own hands as illnesses spread during the colder months. Banner Health and Dignity Health have implemented visitor restrictions, which they say are necessary to slow the spread of respiratory illness at its hospital.
“Staying up-to-date on flu and COVID-19 vaccines is a simple way to prevent infections, reduce the spread of respiratory illness, and prevent severe disease,” said Dr. Staab. “You can get them on the same day at many places, and there’s still time to get vaccinated before the holidays.” It’s best to get vaccinated at least two weeks ahead of gatherings or travel so the body has time to build up protection.
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