Seattle doctor discusses increase in respiratory illnesses, new COVID-19 variant JN. 1

As the holiday season concludes, health systems across the country are witnessing an uptick in respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, the flu, and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). This increase in cases is putting a strain on medical facilities and healthcare workers, prompting experts to urge the public to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions.

Respiratory Illnesses has risen Post-Holiday

Dr. Carrie Jenner, a pediatrician with Franciscan Health, spoke about the current state of these illnesses and offered insights into how individuals can protect themselves and their communities. According to Dr. Jenner, there has been an above-average increase in flu and RSV cases, while COVID-19 levels are lower than last year but still significant. She noted that COVID-19 continues to be the leading cause of hospitalization for respiratory illnesses at present.

The health system is feeling the pressure of this increase in respiratory cases. Dr. Jenner mentioned that pediatric offices are particularly busy, with many children presenting coughing symptoms. She emphasized the availability of virtual care options, such as Franciscan Health’s virtual urgent care, which can alleviate the burden on emergency rooms and provide convenient care for patients at home.

One of the key points Dr. Jenner touched upon was the importance of vaccinations. She reiterated that it is not too late to get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19. The flu season continues through April or May, making the flu shot still relevant and effective. As for the COVID-19 booster, Dr. Jenner explained that the updated vaccine offers good protection against the virus, including the recent Omicron variants.

Regarding the new COVID-19 variant, JN.1, Dr. Jenner clarified that while it spreads quicker, it does not seem to cause more severe disease. She reassured that current vaccines provide some protection against this variant and that treatments like Paxlovid remain effective.

Dr. Jenner also provided advice on when to seek medical care. For minor symptoms like body aches and fevers, virtual care is a good option. However, symptoms like rapid and difficult breathing, chest heaviness, or severe dehydration warrant a visit to urgent care or the emergency room.

The discussion also covered the use of masks in preventing the spread of these illnesses. Dr. Jenner recommended wearing masks in crowded environments like concerts or airports but considered them unnecessary in settings with fewer people. She also stressed the importance of basic hygiene practices like hand washing and covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing.

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In conclusion, as respiratory illnesses see an uptick following the holidays, the public is urged to remain cautious and proactive in their health management. Vaccinations, virtual care options, and basic hygiene practices are crucial in combating the spread of these illnesses. The healthcare system, while currently strained, continues to adapt and provide necessary care to those affected. As we navigate through these winter months, maintaining vigilance and taking responsible health measures will be key to safeguarding our communities.

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