Achoo! The Quad-Cities battles trifecta of illnesses

Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 10:21 AM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Get out the tissues.

The flu, COVID and RSV, a type of respiratory infection, are on the rise in the Quad-Cities. It’s typical to see one illness or the other increasing this time of year, but doctors say the combination of all three is putting a strain on area hospitals and schools.

“Emergency rooms are packed. Urgent care is filled up. Primary offices are filled up,” said Dr. Toyosi Olutade, the chief medical officer for UnityPoint Health – Trinity.

Olutade urged patients to use the hospital system’s virtual care options to take the strain off overwhelmed healthcare workers, who he commended for providing regular care on top of serving the new wave of patients suffering from seasonal bugs.

Genesis Health System is also seeing a surge.

“We are seeing a lot of people with respiratory illnesses in our (emergency departments) and clinics,” said Lisa Caffery, the health system’s infection prevention coordinator.

It’s probably going to get worse, warn health officials.

Iowa schools with more than 10% of students absent have to report to the state. Earlier this month it was just three schools in Scott County, according to a report from the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services. Its next report, expected Thursday, is likely to have a lot more.

Schools are calling the county health department this week to report high absence rates and the symptoms suffered by their students.

“We’ve been getting quite a bit of that the past few days,” said Brooke Barnes, the deputy director of the Scott County Health Department. The department can’t release data on individual schools but said the highest absence rates were at elementary schools.

What’s making us sick?

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is of particular concern and especially dangerous for children and the elderly because of the way the virus attacks the lungs. It is highly contagious and spreads like the cold, said Olutade, the UnityPoint medical chief.

Nita Ludwig is the administrator of the Rock Island County Health Department.

“As far as illnesses, what we’re seeing is we definitely know that the RSV virus is occurring here in the Quad-Cities,” Ludwig said, “and we do have kids that are getting that.”

Nationally, flu hospitalizations are increasing at a rate not seen since 2010, the federal Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday. Flu-like illness is spreading at high or very high levels in 43 states, including Iowa and Illinois.

What to expect

Quad-Cities health experts say it’s time to prepare for another local COVID spike.

COVID cases in Iowa have increased by 28% in the past week, a fifth straight week of increases, according to Health and Human Services. Cases in Illinois have skyrocketed, too, from about 2,500 positives a day last week to 8,700 on Monday.

So how do you keep from getting sick? It’s the same messaging from healthcare officials since the pandemic began in 2020: Wash your hands, mask up, avoid crowded spaces and get flu vaccines and COVID boosters.