RIDOH invites Rhode Islanders to take prevention measures against increase of respiratory viruses

PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Department of Health is encouraging Rhode Islanders to take preventive measures to protect themselves against several respiratory viruses circulating in the state, including respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, flu and COVID-19.

“While RSV is a common virus that we see every year in Rhode Island, we are seeing cases earlier than usual, and we are seeing more [viruses] circulating in the community,” said Dr. Utpala Bandy, interim director of health. “The good news is that many of the prevention measures that help prevent the spread of the flu and COVID-19 also help prevent the spread of RSV. Regular hand-washing and staying home from school or work when sick are two steps that everyone should be taking, especially kids and people who are in regular contact with school-age children, older adults and people with underlying health conditions.”

Some preventive measures include receiving the flu shot and COVID-19 booster, cleaning surfaces, washing hands, staying home if showing symptoms and keeping sick children home.

RSV is a respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. While most people recover on their own, some populations are at higher risk, including premature infants, children with chronic lung disease or congenital heart disease, children with weakened immune systems or with neuromuscular disorders, and adults that are older than 65 or have weakened immune systems.

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While RSV cases usually peak around January, they are currently roughly double what is seen during a typical January peak. The R.I. Department of Health said the increase in cases might be due to lower levels of immunity in communities, which is the result of measures taken against COVID-19, such as social distancing.

The flu is also starting to circulate in Rhode Island, while it usually circulates through the spring. COVID-19 also continues to cause hospitalizations.

Claudia Chiappa is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Chiappa@PBN.com.