Florida doctors brace for winter as trio of respiratory illnesses spreads

COVID-19, flu, RSV viruses circulating, increasing hospitalizations

As Florida enters the winter season, doctors are seeing a trio of respiratory illnesses on the rise: COVID-19, influenza and RSV.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – As Florida enters the winter season, doctors are seeing a trio of respiratory illnesses on the rise: COVID-19, influenza and RSV.

Influenza never left during the summer in Central Florida and the area is now starting to see a rise in cases, according to Dr. Tim Hendrix, medical director for AdventHealth Centra Care.

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“Our primary concern is with influenza. During a flu season, we’ll see an increased rate of hospitalizations and complications... 60% increase just in the last week and the number of people testing positive for influenza,” Hendrix said.

As for COVID-19 cases?

“We are seeing less COVID-19 but we are still having some positive cases come into Centra Care. This is the time of year when we start seeing an increase in respiratory illnesses,” Hendrix said.

Flu season typically begins close to the winter season. This year, doctors are seeing a surge in respiratory infections.

“The flu obviously has been the biggest one traditionally. Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is one that hits (the) pediatric population more than adults and it comes around the same time,” said Dr. Todd Husty, medical director of Seminole County.

That particular respiratory illness has been surging around the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36 states have reported RSV cases are rising in the trio of viruses— COVID, the flu and RSV—and more than 70% of pediatric beds are already occupied nationwide.

“We are not one of those states. It’s not here yet. It is in other places, we forget that. So, the respiratory viruses spread easily when we’re really close to each other stuck indoors,” Husty said.

He added that doesn’t mean Florida is exempt—those types of cases begin later in the year. So, how is RSV different from the flu and COVID?

“A harsh cough at night or wheezing really sort of signifies this is breathing tubes which is probably RSV not the flu and not COVID,” Husty said. “It’s a pain and it’s difficult for the kids, it’s difficult for mom and dad but it’s not really horrible. RSV does get into the breathing tubes and does cause shortness of breath and some difficulty breathing so more of those kids will be admitted but it’s very treatable.”

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Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.