Masking encouraged to protect from RSV, flu, and other viruses this fall

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AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Local health officials are recommending masking to stop not only COVID-19 but also other respiratory viruses as the fall season approaches.

Dr. Brian Weis, chief medical officer at Northwest Texas Healthcare System, said it has been a busy year for upper respiratory infections, including RSV.

“…the potential for us to have a more severe flu season certainly is about to be upon us…”

Dr. Michael Lamanteer, Chief Medical Officer at BSA Health System

“It’s just been stunning to see RSV during the summertime. I mean, that’s very unique, and then when we run these large respiratory panels, we’re also seeing parainfluenza virus, rhinovirus, and enterovirus, and then some of the old-fashioned coronaviruses that we know have been coming through,” Dr. Weis said.

BSA Health System’s chief medical officer, Dr. Michael Lamanteer, said their hospital is seeing more RSV as well.

“We’re continuing to see a lot of RSV as well, mostly pediatric patients, but some that are not pediatric,” Dr. Lamanteer said.

He said rates of RSV suggest we could see a worse flu season this year. That possibility exists as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to run rampant across the U.S.

However, Dr. Lamanteer said wearing masks can stop the spread of these respiratory viruses.

“I would say that the potential for us to have a more severe flu season certainly is about to be upon us, because especially with a reduction that we’ve had in masking requirements,” said Dr. Lamanteer. “That’s why we’re all recommending masking because we’re very concerned about multiple respiratory viruses taking place at a time when the risk is going to be significant for our citizens.”

Dr. Weis echoed those concerns saying, “I’m a little worried about what we’re going to see, as Dr. Lamanteer said, going into the fall with flu hitting us, and RSV, coming back with a vengeance, and it’s going to possibly be a busy fall into winter.”

Amarillo Public Health Authority Dr. Todd Bell works on a pediatric floor at BSA Hospital.

“We sometimes see kids with more than one virus. So, I actually had two patients admitted last week that had both RSV and COVID,” Dr. Bell said, noting they were older than the typical RSV patient who usually requires oxygen.

He continued, “It may have been that if the patients only had one of the illnesses or the other, then they might not have needed to be hospitalized. But with both of them, they ended up requiring the oxygen and having to come into the hospital.”

Dr. Bell reiterated the need for masking as colder months approach.

“If we can all get our masks on, it’s going to be able to help not just with COVID, but with these other respiratory viruses as well,” said Dr. Bell. “Because all of those drain resources and obviously put kids in harm’s way.”

The CDC is encouraging the public to get their flu shots this year, noting flu vaccines could be in higher demand due to the pandemic.

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