Flu, RSV cases combine with COVID-19 to fill hospitals in Montgomery County

While the community spread of COVID-19 is still low in Montgomery County, Maryland, health officials said the combination of RSV, the flu and the coronavirus is boosting emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Dr. Louis Damiano, president of Holy Cross Health Acute Care for Maryland, said its hospitals in Silver Spring and Germantown have seen some 500 hospitalizations a month for upper respiratory tract infections.

In July and August, Damiano said, most of those were related to COVID-19. “In the last couple of months, that has changed. So now about 50% of the visits that we see in both Silver Spring and Germantown for upper respiratory tract infections are either RSV or they’re flu.”

During Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s weekly briefing with reporters, Damiano said despite the surge in people heading to the hospital with upper respiratory tract issues, “We’re not at the point right now in the ‘tripledemic,’ where we have to go into full-blown surge plan like we did during the earlier portion of the COVID pandemic and during the omicron pandemic, but we’re ready” to do that as they monitor the patients being seen.

On the impact of RSV in the Montgomery County school system, Montgomery County Deputy Health officer Dr. James Bridgers said they are in contact with Dr. Patricia Kapunan, who is the medical officer for Montgomery County Public Schools.

“We haven’t seen any significant impact” of RSV on school attendance. “We continue to monitor any outbreaks,” Bridgers said.

On what people can do to prevent the spread of the three viruses, Damiano said all three can be transmitted by aerosol, and RSV and flu can be transmitted by contact.

“Washing your hands, using discretion when you go out in to larger groups of people” are advised, Damiano said.

For RSV and flu, Damiano recommended wiping down surfaces. And in all three cases, he advised staying home if you feel sick.

Sean O’Donnell, Public Health Emergency Preparedness manager with the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, said about 31% of the county’s residents have gotten their flu shots.

“Everyone six months and older should get that flu shot unless their doctor is telling them there’s a reason they shouldn’t,” O’Donnell said.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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