COVID and flu cases are surging in Texas, particularly in Central Texas. The spike is attributed to holiday gatherings and travel. Recently, Angela M. Gibson, DO, Director of Urgent Care Services and After Hours Clinics for ARC Family Medicine, shared some insight into the current conditions with the Austin American-Statesman.
What's going around?
COVID-19 is the most common, followed by flu A and RSV. "COVID-19 has never gone away," said Dr. Gibson. Instead, it has spikes, typically in summer, then winter, beginning in late November into December and January. We are in a spike currently, fueled by holiday travel and gatherings.
Is the flu worse this year?
The flu is worse this year than in the previous three years. Call it the "great unmasking." Dr. Gibson said we stopped wearing masks, and we went out into crowds again. Our bodies have forgotten what the flu is after a couple of years of not experiencing it, so we don't have as much immunity without vaccination or experiencing it again.
Are the symptoms similar?
Symptoms of respiratory viruses overlap, making testing crucial for proper identification. Flu tends to come on quickly with high fever and body aches, while COVID-19 is often milder. RSV may cause wheezing and prolonged cough. COVID-19 tends to be milder. COVID-19 patients actually think they have cedar fever or another allergy. They are surprised when the COVID test comes back positive, Dr. Gibson said. The viruses spread differently, with COVID-19 being airborne and others transmitted through contact or shared items.
What are the current recommendations?
Recommendations include testing, seeking medical advice for antivirals, staying home when sick, getting vaccinated, and practicing good hygiene. Mask-wearing, especially in crowded spaces, is advised for vulnerable individuals. No mandates are suggested, but caution is encouraged to protect high-risk populations. Please avoid "mask-shaming," Dr. Gibson said, because you never know if that person has immunity issues because of cancer or a transplant or other health reasons.
To wrap up: here is how to stay healthy during cold and flu season:
- Test for COVID-19 if you just don't feel good or think you have allergies.
- Call your doctor if you think you have COVID-19 or flu.
- Stay home if you are sick.
- Get vaccinated. It is not too late to get the new COVID-19 booster, a flu shot, or the RSV shot if you are 60 years old or older.
- Wash your hands.
- It never hurts to wear a mask in crowded spaces.
Make an appointment at ARC Same-Day Care
With ARC Same-Day Care, you and your loved ones are seen by urgent care doctors and nurses when you need to be seen. Same-Day appointments are available 365 days a year for minor emergencies, including sprains, colds and flu, minor burns, seasonal allergies, and more. Make a Same-Day Care appointment online or by calling 512-272-4636 and pressing '1' to make an appointment. ARC Patient Service Representatives are available 24/7 to schedule an appointment.