Viral illnesses similar to the flu are on the rise in DC, according to the CDC. The public health agency’s weekly influenza surveillance map reports that influenza-like illness activity is “very high” in the District, although Virginia and Maryland are still seeing low to moderate cases.
Still, whatever illness is going around is most likely not the actual flu. Influenza-positive cases are still fairly low in the region, says Dr. Eric Almli, an emergency department physician at MedStar Montgomery Medical Center. But recent data shows that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory illnesses with symptoms like cough, fever, and sore throat are surging nationwide. RSV poses the most risk to babies and young children, but immunocompromised adults and the elderly are also more likely to experience severe symptoms. Locally, RSV and other respiratory viruses are pushing pediatric hospitals to the brink: Children’s National Medical Center and the children’s hospital at Fairfax INOVA are both at capacity, according to a report this morning in the Washington Post.
With Covid infections slowing down, Dr. Almli suggests we are seeing a spike in RSV because not many people are wearing masks anymore. This could also cause us to see more flu cases this season, too. “Like all coughs and colds, proper hand washing, avoiding going out into public when you have symptoms, or even wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of illness,” he says. “It’s also important that folks six months and older go out and get their flu vaccine before the season peaks.”