It’s not your imagination. It seems like everyone gets sick in South Florida.
Kids. Seniors. Family. Friends.
“Unfortunately, at this time of year everyone has an equal chance” of catching a cold, said Dr. Ladan Pourmasiha, a family physician who is also medical director of Baptist Health Urgent Care Centers. South Florida in Broward County.
The doctor and mother of two children feels a little uneasy.
“Whatever they get goes to mom,” Pourmasiha said.
And while COVID-19 is still around, it’s not the only virus that could make your colleague sick.
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Influenza, RSV and other respiratory illnesses are making their way through the city. All of these viruses have cold-like symptoms, so unless you’re tested, it can be hard to tell what you have.
For Barbara Colonna and Sonia Diaz, their colds manifested in the form of sore throats and congestion.
“I felt like my head was under water,” Colonna said. She had to use “boxes and boxes of aloe-smeared tissues” for her red, stuffy nose.
Colonna, a retired University of Miami professor, thinks her husband gave it to her. He fell ill a few days after returning from Hawaii. It was the first time she had fallen ill since returning from a trip to Iceland last year.
Diaz, founder and president of Zaid Communications, fell ill after traveling to visit family in the Dominican Republic.
Both Colonna and Diaz tested negative for COVID-19.
Colonna said she always takes precautions and avoids going to the gym. She canceled her appointments, self-isolated for a few days at home and also wore a mask for two weeks in public places – just in case.
Diaz, who said she doesn’t usually get sick, felt extremely tired and wondered if she had the flu. It hit her harder than COVID.
“It really knocked me down,” Diaz said.
And they are not alone.
Doctors are noticing an increase in people with cold symptoms, including cough, congestion, runny nose, sore throat, headache and body aches.
Pourmasiha and other doctors in South Florida say more adults and children are likely to get sick this year because fewer were exposed to the flu and other viruses during the pandemic.
“Even before COVID, there were times when people got triple infections and double infections. And even now we see combinations of bacterial and viral infections. I saw strep with the flu, I saw the flu with COVID. I’ve seen COVID with strep so it’s definitely a combination,” Pourmasiha said.
“And as we start to build our immunity that we haven’t gotten in the last two years – because so many of these viruses were almost non-existent due to social distancing and masking – we’re going to start to see infections. double and triple infection so we will have to wait until the end of this course.
And while everyone is at risk of getting sick, especially during flu and RSV season, doctors are most concerned about those considered to be at higher risk of complications, including infants, people elderly and immunocompromised people.
Children’s hospitals in South Florida are also closely monitoring respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which has led to above-average case counts in the state. It is a common childhood virus, and although it is usually mild, some children can become seriously ill.
READ MORE: Is your child sick? South Florida is seeing more respiratory illnesses — here’s what to know
How to avoid getting sick
▪ Wash your hands frequently to help reduce your risk of getting sick. An earlier flu season this year has led to more people in hospital at levels not seen in more than a decade.
▪ Dr. Pourmasiha encourages people to get the flu vaccine, as well as the booster of the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, which targets the original strain of COVID as well as the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, to reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill.
▪ The doctor says you might also consider wearing a mask in certain situations, such as traveling by plane.
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This story was originally published November 30, 2022 4:48 p.m.
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