Sat. May 25th, 2024

High levels of respiratory illnesses spreading across Southern California

If it appears that everyone around you is sick, the increase is due to a trio of illnesses spreading widely and sickening families across Southern California.

Dr. Ali Jamehdor at Dignity Health said there was a 33% increase in patients coming in with respiratory illnesses compared to the same time last year. 


Nearly one in four L.A. County residents have fallen ill in December alone, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

“This year, more than any other year, we are seeing more of influenza, RSV and COVID, higher than what we’ve seen in years past,” explained Jamehdor.

Across the state, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes the level of flu-like illnesses, which include non-flu viruses such as coronavirus, is considered high. 

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is peaking earlier than usual, and the flu might follow suit, the CDC warns. (Getty Images)

Jamehdor says over 90 percent of adult patients checking in for a doctor’s visit are those with cold symptoms. Most have lost their voice and are testing positive for adult Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, according to the CDC.

“People are out and about and they’re shaking hands or hugging,” Jamehdor said. “They’re in closed quarters and they’re getting more colds, all viruses.”

As for COVID-19, Jamehdor said infections are unfortunately on the rise again.

“COVID is back,” he said. “People are having pneumonia from it, shortness of breath, and we’ve admitted more patients with pneumonia due to the COVID virus.”

Across the nation, Jahmedor said COVID-19 remains one of the primary causes of hospitalizations and deaths.

To prevent contracting respiratory illnesses, healthcare workers recommend wearing facemasks in crowded places, washing hands frequently and maintaining physical space from others in public.

“I think people want to move on with their lives and get past the lockdown situation,” Jamehdor said. “But I think having a little precaution in situations where you’re in such close areas without any good ventilation, having a mask is not a bad idea.”

The three major viral illnesses spreading around – COVID, RSV and influenza – have many overlapping symptoms, which can make it hard to properly diagnose without a test.

While cough and fever are common with all three, there are ways the viruses differ.

Sneezing is common with RSV, happens sometimes with COVID-19 and is rare with the flu, according to the Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. Headaches and body aches are rare with RSV, happen sometimes with COVID-19 and are common with the flu.

Another thing to pay attention to is the “onset of symptoms,” said Children’s National. While COVID-19 and RSV both start gradually and then escalate, the flu usually hits hard and fast.

With RSV, symptoms often go away in about a week, according to the CDC. Symptoms persist longer with the flu, about one to two weeks, and can last even longer with COVID-19.

For those experiencing symptoms, Jamehdor recommends immediately testing for a specific illness, taking medications as prescribed by your doctor and getting plenty of rest and fluids. 

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