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Health Officials Sound Alarm Over Respiratory Infections

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Caroline MacGregor
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Health Officer Dr. Steven Eshenaur discusses an increase in numbers of respiratory infections in Kanawha Valley

With more people out shopping for the holidays and an earlier than usual flu season, health officials say the chances of falling ill from a respiratory infection are high.

Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Health Officer Dr. Steven Eshenaur said with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), COVID-19 variants and flu filling up hospital beds, people should get vaccinated against both COVID-19 and flu.

With RSV, people with compromised or undeveloped immune systems can develop severe infection, including pneumonia.

Eshenaur said along with COVID-19 boosters and flu vaccinations it’s important to remember simple preventative measures like handwashing and, for the immune compromised, to avoid contact with large groups of people.

In West Virginia only 21 percent of people aged 65 and older had received a bivalent vaccine as of Nov. 5, 2022. The CDC reports that nationally, 6465 people were admitted to hospital for influenza during the week ending Nov 5.

Dr. Mike Robie, associate chief medical officer with Charleston Area Medical Center Health System said the elderly and young are the most vulnerable to disease and infection. Facilities like CAMC Women's and Children’s Hospital continue to feel the strain.

“There are 19 kids currently admitted this morning with RSV,” he said. “The major symptom most of those kids are having is increased mucus production, a lot of congestion, that is what ends them up in the hospital, the need to have constant suction.”

Robie said five children were also admitted for influenza - a number doctors called problematic this early in the year.

Robie said hospitals are feeling the pressure and many are making transfer requests where needed.
But, with COVID-19, he said the situation has almost become the norm over the past two years.

“We have amazing nurses that just step up and take care of these kids and our community,” he said. “Without those nurses supporting our operations, we’d be in a lot of trouble.”

Assistant News Director, cmacgregor@wvpublic.org

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