DES MOINES, Iowa – The flu season is increasing in Iowa, but there is another virus that worries health officials.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can be behind influenza only in central Iowa viruses, but it can be just as lethal.
“Potentially fatal. We have our hospital full of babies and children with multiple viral diseases, but RSV is one of our most frequent,” said Carrie O’Brien of UnityPoint Health. Children 12 months and younger are the most vulnerable. O’Brien said: “Hopefully they survive that infection, but there are those who unfortunately do not.”
Dr. Caitlin Pedati, medical director and state epidemiologist at the Iowa Department of Public Health, says there is a big difference between the flu and the RSV. “Unfortunately, there are other viruses for which we don’t have vaccines, and RSV is an example of one of those.”
In response, Des Moines UnityPoint hospitals prohibit families from visiting maternity wards throughout the month of January. O’Brien said: “It could be weeks. It could be months.”
They are also encouraging visitors with friends and family members who receive any attention to stay away. “Unfortunately, being able to provide the best patient care for those people means that we are asking to limit the people they come into contact with who are not 100 percent relevant to their care,” O’Brien said.
Without a vaccine for RSV, it is actually the best option for a virus that spreads by coughing, sneezing or kissing babies. “If you reduce the number of times people interact, reduce the number of times the virus can pass from one person to another,” said Dr. Pedati. To help prevent coughing and sneezing, get a flu shot. Pedati said: “Wash your hands, cover your cough and stay home when you’re sick.”
The Polk County Health Department is open Monday through Friday to receive flu shots without an appointment. Since Christmas, they say they have seen an increase in patients. One of the contributing factors may be in December, when a 4-year-old Waterloo girl contracted the flu virus and became blind. She was not vaccinated.
Nola Aigner-Davis serves as a public information officer for the Polk County Health Department and said: “If you are not receiving the flu vaccine, it is when we see people hospitalized, it is when we see even healthy death. So I think people are starting to take that seriously and get a flu shot. “
UnityPoint offers virtual tours in all its Des Moines hospitals. You can take the tours by clicking on the links below.
Iowa Methodist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgzlTAB5Wb0&feature=emb_logo
Iowa Lutheran: https://vimeo.com/354243814
West Methodist: https://vimeo.com/370141014