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Preparations for a New Respiratory Illness Season: Learning From the Pandemic

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Benjamin Chan, a state epidemiologist from New Hampshire, dedicated his full time to track the virus, develop guidelines, and communicate scientific findings.

In the past 18 months, he and other health professionals have seen a shift back towards more routine health work. However, COVID-19 remains a concern as hospital admissions have been rising since mid-July. In terms of hospitalizations, there were about half as many in New Hampshire in the week of 12th August this year as there were the previous year. Hospitals in New Hampshire are preparing for a possibly hectic fall season, with expectations of an increase in COVID-19 cases and other respiratory illnesses, as is typical in colder months.

Last year, an early surge of pediatric RSV cases added strain to healthcare professionals already grappling with flu and COVID-19 cases. Dr. Michael Calderwood, an infectious disease physician, suggests that the measures taken to combat COVID-19 resulted in a loss of population immunity to illnesses like flu and RSV.

In anticipation of the 2022-2023 season, hospitals have been preparing with additional supplies and setting up procedures for an influx of patients. The importance of vaccines in preventing diseases and handling the respiratory illness season is stressed by healthcare professionals.

Hospitals have been increasing collaboration over the course of the pandemic to manage and allocate patient care resources efficiently. Advancements in vaccination, testing, and treatments have greatly aided the healthcare system’s readiness. Medical professionals are urging citizens to get flu and COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.

The first RSV vaccines were approved earlier this year and there is also a new antibody treatment that can fortify RSV immunity in young children. At the individual level, practices such as hand sanitation and staying home when unwell can contribute significantly to the community’s safety and health.


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