Uptick in respiratory illnesses still causing problems throughout south Georgia

Uptick in respiratory illnesses still causing problems throughout South Georgia
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 6:16 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2023 at 3:18 PM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Respiratory illnesses like the common cold and the flu are still impacting residents with symptoms such as congestion and body aches.

Even with some respiratory illness cases down from a week ago, health officials said that doesn’t mean another spike can’t come along to threaten south Georgians.

“We have a lot of respiratory symptoms out there. A lot of things that will circulate this time of the year. Most of them, the symptoms will kind of mirror one another,” Kenneth Lowery, epidemiologist for the South Health District, said.

Kenneth Lowery is the district epidemiologist for South Health District.
Kenneth Lowery is the district epidemiologist for South Health District.(WALB)

The flu has proven to continue to be a problem.

“Though we are seeing some decrease in influenza, we can see influenza even up through March. Depending on what we are seeing, it can circulate for quite some time,” Lowry said.

Lowry added that over the past few weeks, he’s seen 5-8% of flu-like symptoms come into several hospitals throughout South Georgia daily. He said most people are experiencing these symptoms because of being outdoors more and being in close contact with other people.

“We don’t realize how often we’re touching our face and touching other surfaces, so the chances of us exposing ourselves just based on what we touch on a day-to-day basis is huge,” he said.

With more people coming into the hospital with these types of symptoms, it creates strain on health systems battling the umbrella of illnesses.

“The ER is really where it really kind of causes a lot of problems, not just for the patients coming to be seen but the whole system in general. Sometimes the wait times get for hours,” Dr. Joseph Sonntag, a third year Phoebe resident, said.

If you start feeling sick, your first instinct might be to go to the doctor but health officials are saying if you’re experiencing mild symptoms, you might be exposed to more serious illnesses, such as COVID-19.

The uptick in cases has caused more stress on the healthcare system.
The uptick in cases has caused more stress on the healthcare system.(WALB)

Throughout the past few weeks, COVID-19 cases have gone down. Currently, there are 17 patients with COVID at Phoebe. Sonntag said there has been an uptick in respiratory complaints.

“The majority of them thank God are mostly just congestion and a little bit of sore throat but the common illnesses that we kind of forgot about in the last couple years of the COVID pandemic and everything, those are still here. They were always here and now they’re kind of coming back,” he said.

These symptoms aren’t targeting just one group of people.

“It’s been you know not just in the children but the adult population as well,” he said.

Dr. Joesph Sonntag is a third year resident at Phoebe.
Dr. Joesph Sonntag is a third year resident at Phoebe.(WALB)

Sonntag says the best thing to do when you first experience mild symptoms is not to jump to the worst-case scenario. Instead, you should remember what we’ve heard plenty of times during the pandemic. Stay home when you’re sick, mask up and wash your hands.

“There has been an increased burden on the different services with the urgent care, the primary care as well as the ER in the last few months with all these respiratory illnesses for sure. For a normal cold, congestion, most of them can be handled just at home,” he said.

Lowry said following those steps with your mild symptoms could alleviate the stress on our healthcare systems.

“We hope that much like we’ve seen previous years; we have this increase and then we have more or less a lull, and we hope to see that soon,” he said.