Flu, respiratory illnesses creeping up in metro Phoenix

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PHOENIX – The holiday season is approaching but another season is already here – cold and flu season.

Throw COVID-19 into the mix and respiratory illnesses are climbing in Arizona, a health expert told KTAR News 92.3 FM earlier this week.

“We definitely want people to take steps to help protect themselves moving forward as we start entering respiratory infection season,” Dr. Eugene Livar with Arizona Department of Health Services said.

The department’s assistant director for public health preparedness said Arizona has seen three times as many flu and 4.5 times as many respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases this season compared to the five-season average based on the most recent report.

“We’re heading into holiday season [and] that often means planning for family gatherings, get-togethers, getting some of those things on our calendars,” Livar said.

The epidemiologist said there was a drop in respiratory cases during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many of these respiratory viruses circulated at much lower levels than we had previously seen but … it’s coming back,” he said.

COVID-19 remains a factor – ADHS data showed there were 4,268 cases reported for the week of Oct. 16, a slight increase from the previous five weeks – but the health agency is watching the flu and RSV numbers, too.

“One of the best ways you can help protect yourself is staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines and then also getting your influenza vaccine,” Livar said.

“Those are some of the best tools that we have to help protect us against those particular virile illnesses.”

Other ways ADHS recommends to lower your risk of infection:

• Washing you hands often with soap and water

• Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands

• Covering coughs and sneezes

• Avoiding close contact with people who are sick

And finally, “Staying home when you’re sick,” Livar said. “Don’t go [to work] and infect others.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Tasler contributed to this report.

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