Although respiratory infections are common, there has been a significant increase in related cases in Puerto Rico recently.
For example, last June, the Ministry of Health issued a flu outbreak alert. Likewise, the Epidemiological Surveillance System detected an increase in cases associated with RSV in October 2022.
Among populations, persons 65 years of age or older, people with chronic medical conditions, and pregnant women are at increased risk of serious complications from influenza, as described in the report “Influenza Surveillance: Week 25 Epidemiology 2023” prepared by the Office of Epidemiology Department of Health The study provided data from June 18-24, 2023.
“Children, especially the youngest and those with weakened immune systems, are at greater risk,” pediatric pulmonologist Wilfredo De Jesús Rojas said of respiratory infections.
According to the above report and its preliminary data, in 2022, children aged 5 to 9 years (5,934 cases) will have the highest number of influenza cases, followed by people aged 0 to 4 years (5,237 cases). – Season 2022.2023. The Ponce area has the highest reported rate of total influenza cases.
The document states that “approximately 58.1% of cases reported during the season were detected in the pediatric population (0-19 years),” adding that during weeks 23 to 25, “influenza cases were detected at an alert level. “
Regarding RSV, the Office of Epidemiology and Research reported in the 2022-23 Puerto Rico RSV Epidemiological Surveillance that the average age of cases associated with the virus in Puerto Rico was 3.6 years. In terms of the distribution of cases by health region, in 2022 the metropolitan area will have the highest number of cases, followed by the Bayamon and Arecibo regions.
Dr. De Jesús Rojas noted that although respiratory infections are generally more common in winter, in Puerto Rico they occur year-round.
Influenza, common cold, and RSV: which is which?
“The flu, colds and bronchiolitis are all caused by respiratory viruses, but they vary in severity and symptoms,” said the expert, who is medical director of the Pediatric Institute for Asthma and Rare Lung Diseases.
To distinguish them, doctors point to the following characteristics:
influenza: It is usually more serious than the common cold, with symptoms including high fever, body aches, extreme fatigue and a dry cough.
common cold: You may have sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat and mild cough.
Bronchiolitis caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV): Symptoms can be moderate to severe, especially in young children and infants, and include fever, cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
“The reason is exposure to the virus through the respiratory droplets we come into contact with. Risk factors include age (children are more susceptible), weakened immune systems, and exposure to crowded places such as schools or care centers,” he mentioned.
Should they stay home?
Asked whether children and adolescents should attend school if they have symptoms of a respiratory infection, Dr De Jesús Rojas stressed that they should stay home if:
- Fever, severe cough or shortness of breath; and
- They feel too ill to participate in daily activities.
Pulmonologists warn: “If symptoms are severe, such as difficulty breathing, seek medical attention.” If symptoms do not improve, you should see your doctor.
“Once the fever has been resolved for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication, they can return to class,” he said.
Regarding preventive measures, these include: washing hands regularly, avoiding close contact with sick people, practicing good general hygiene, and getting a flu vaccine. To prevent spread, it is important to stay home until they recover.
“Treatment of these viruses usually involves relieving symptoms, as they are caused by the virus and do not respond to antibiotics. This can include rest, hydration, and medication to relieve fever and pain”, concludes Dr. De Jesús Rojas.
The author is a staff reporter for Saludable, Puerto Rico.