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Tackling the Post-Holiday Surge in Respiratory Illnesses: A Call for Infection Prevention

Nationwide hospitals are currently grappling with a shortage of beds in the aftermath of the Thanksgiving holiday, due to a marked increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory diseases. This influx has been more pronounced among sensitive groups such as children and the elderly. Repercussions of this trend have been felt not too far off in the Black Hills where local hospitals are also strained.

There has been a notable spike in influenza and COVID-19 cases over the past three weeks, according to a doctor specializing in infection prevention and control at Monument Health. This surge has significantly impacted both older adults and children in the region. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), RSV infection alone results in the hospitalization of up to 120,000 older adults each year in the U.S., from which between 6,000 and 10,000 succumb to the disease. In addition, the virus is responsible for yearly hospitalizations of about 80,000 children under age 5.

The predicament becomes even more dire during the holiday season and colder months. Indoor gatherings heighten the risk of close contact with infected individuals, thereby exacerbating the current inflation in influenza, RSV, and COVID-19 cases. As Ty White, the Director of Infection and Prevention Control at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital, illuminates, the groups that are generally more susceptible and get hospitalized are opposites in terms of age – the very young and the very old. White underscored that vaccination remains the most effective prevention measure against these illnesses. However, he highlighted additional practices including basic hand hygiene, self-isolation when ill, and avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose, and mouth, as crucial and impactful steps.


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