PITTSBURG, Kan. — As summer comes to a close and fall rings in the yearly virus season, many area healthcare providers including CHCSEK have begun to see an increase in viral illnesses such as influenza, COVID and other respiratory illnesses.
Fortunately for most people, the COVID variants and the other viral illnesses are mild and generally resolve without the need for treatment, says Dr. Linda Bean, Chief Medical Officer at CHCSEK. However, individuals who are at risk — either due to age or certain medical conditions — and have been exposed or suspect they have influenza or COVID should follow up with a medical provider to discuss testing and treatment options.
At this time, mass testing is not expected to return.
“With the public health emergency declarations expiring signaling the end of the pandemic, we have also seen an end to the ability to do mass testing for COVID,” Bean said. “Most health organizations including CHCSEK now have less access to testing supplies, and fewer resources dedicated to testing as we did during the pandemic.”
Additionally, the curbside and in-clinic testing once covered for patients during the public health emergency is no longer “free,” and home testing kits are readily available through retail stores and online.
“COVID variants are always going to be around,” Dr. Bean said. “Now, beyond the pandemic, we need to shift our thinking around them and other respiratory illnesses to managing our risks the best we can, including staying up to date on COVID and influenza vaccines, which we believe will be available in the next couple of weeks.”
CHCSEK advises that anyone who develops symptoms or has been exposed to influenza, COVID, or other respiratory illnesses should:
• Stay home, rest, and drink fluids.
• Use over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever and body aches.
• For most viral illnesses, people can return to class or work once they have been fever-free for 24 hours and symptoms are improving.
• Anyone with suspected or confirmed COVID or influenza, it is recommended that they stay home for five days after the start of symptoms.
• Cover coughs and sneezes if it is necessary to be around others.
• Use masks to help reduce transmission.
CHCSEK also advises people should seek a medical provider when they are sick and at an increased risk of severe illness due to medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or other conditions that lower the immune system.