Health officials associated with Larimer County and local healthcare providers are urging residents to exercise caution in the coming months as respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, RSV and flu, are expected to hit the country hard.
Governor Polis expanded the current COVID-19 disaster declaration to include RSV and flu, Larimer County Director of Public Health Tom Gonzales said during a briefing on respiratory illnesses in the region on Tuesday.
“The Disaster Declaration empowers agencies to maintain access to federal and state funding for recovery efforts, to respond quickly to changes in the public health environment, and to support the health care system to maintain adequate staffing and preparedness to respond to all health care needs, Gonzales said. “During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we alerted them when a disease was overloading the capacity of our hospitals in Larimer County. We are currently seeing an increase in hospital admissions for RSV, COVID-19 and flu, and we are asking residents to take action to prevent these viruses from spreading in our community.”
This action starts with basic good health practices, according to Larimer County Medical Officer Paul Mayer — things like good nutrition, regular exercise and getting enough sleep that can boost the immune system.
Likewise, vaccines for COVID-19 and flu are important for maintaining immunity against these diseases. There is currently no vaccination for RSV, Mayer said, although research is ongoing.
COVID-19 and flu shots can be taken at the same time, Mayer added, and residents are encouraged to do so for convenience.
Concerns about a worse-than-normal flu season have been circulating for some time. In recent years, the number of flu infections has declined as a side effect of COVID-19 precautions such as masking and quarantine, but as those precautions have faded, the likelihood of contracting illness has increased.
Health officials have looked to the Southern Hemisphere, which has a flu season during the Northern Hemisphere summer and can therefore be used to locally predict the severity of flu seasons, and signs point to a spike in cases and more potentially deadly cases.
If a person does get sick, they are encouraged to stay home for at least three days whether or not they have a fever, and to stay home for 24 hours after the fever has subsided.
Regular hand washing, masking and discussing early symptoms with a GP are also measures residents can take to reduce the spread of infection.
As during the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials are concerned about overburdened hospitals and staff, things that caused problems during the pandemic when hospitals treated more patients in urgent care than they had actual beds.
“If you do get sick, we really want you to call your healthcare provider for guidance,” Mayer said. “The ERs and urgent care are really overwhelmed right now, so your first point of contact should be your primary care provider.”