TWIN FALLS — As COVID-19 continues to have a strong presence in the Magic Valley, health officials are beginning to express their concerns over "respiratory season."
Typically, during the fall and winter months, numerous viruses spread through communities. This is leaving some doctors and public health officials worried about the impact that multiple viruses could have on health efforts.
“This is the time of year that conditions are just right for them to spread very, very quickly and easily among groups for a variety of reasons," said Brianna Bodily, the spokesperson for the South Central Public Health District. "Now, those viruses include Influenza, Ammonia, and Bronchitis.”
Like COVID-19, many of these viruses spread through spit and saliva. Officials are urging people to follow similar safety protocols to COVID-19 to prevent spread and getting sick with one or even multiple viruses.
“When you consider the fact that there is a fair amount of data that co-infection with influenza and COVID-19 leads to worse outcomes," said Dr. Joshua Kern, the chief medical officer for St. Luke's Magic Valley. "Then of course that heightens our concern even more.”
The health district has not received any reports of a potential outbreak of another virus so far this year. Yet if one were to occur in a specific community, it could impact that borough in a variety of ways, much like COVID-19.
“Schools have to shut down for a couple of days because so many staff members are out sick, or because so many kids are out sick," said Bodily. "We see grocery stores have a hard time staffing or restaurants have a hard time staffing because so many staff members are out sick. That's the real impact we see with some of these respiratory season viruses.”
Depending on how sick someone would get, hospitals could also feel the brunt of another illness spreading throughout the community. While doctors and their staff may be better prepared to handle an outbreak following the events of this past year and a half, resources are already thin.
“I think operating kind of like what we’ve done is increasing our staffing, pulling in other physicians to help our normal hospital physicians," said Kern. "Those kinds of measures are what we do to deal with an increased surge over the winter.”
Health officials are recommending to residents that feel ill during these next couple of months to get tested for COVID-19. Once that is done, meet with your primary healthcare provider.
“Follow up with them," said Bodily. "Let them know, I already got tested for COVID-19. This is how far along I am in my symptoms. Should I get another test? Should I test for something else?"