Sickness is everywhere… How do we stay healthy?


Viral and bacterial infections are rampant and are responsible for spiking emergency room visits and hospital admissions.  Our vaccines and disease-acquired immunity are not protecting us as we would have hoped, and COVID-19 seems to be a resistant, rapidly transmissible, and tenacious virus with significant symptoms and a lengthy recovery.  Not to be outdone, Influenza (flu) and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are prevalent, ferocious, and problematic. 

By and large, we have returned to “pre-COVID” social habits, accepting that COVID is here to stay and learning to co-exist with it.  Most of us in healthcare are not clinging to the current COVID statistics: infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.  The data is unreliable as most of the positive cases I am personally aware of are never reported to their physician after testing positive. 

The symptoms of the new variant are chiefly respiratory, and many otherwise healthy adults are reporting it as, “the worst sickness I’ve ever had.”  Many who are eventually testing positive only see a positive test result 10 days or so after the onset of symptoms. 

“I’ve been diagnosed with a virus, flu, COVID, and just picked up a prescription for an antibiotic because I have a bacterial infection.” Yikes.

While antiviral medications are sometimes prescribed, most generally, treating these non-curable viruses is a tincture of time and good old-fashioned attentive care.  Most of us have immune systems that will respond, but some do not.  The very young and their elder counterparts are more susceptible and, depending on baseline health, may struggle with complete recovery.  When your immune system is taxed, you become more vulnerable to other illnesses and less able to fight them off. 

What do we know?

Truth: The air we breathe is the primary transmission source for these problematic respiratory viruses.  Because our airway (nose, mouth, throat, lungs) contains moisture, when we exhale, cough, sneeze, sing, or talk, we emit the moisture which acts as the “host” of the virus, and as we inhale, we literally breathe in these virus-laden moisture molecules. 

Truth: we want to limit our exposure to contaminated surfaces.  We’ve become contortionists.  Able to open and close doors with our feet, we’ve mastered the use of public restrooms and look with suspicion on any surface we contact. 

Even as the viruses mutate and change, some things remain steadfast:

Limit your exposure to groups if you have any underlying medical condition that could make you more vulnerable to infection. 

If you are at a mandatory social event that is crowded, wear an N95 Mask, and make sure it always covers your NOSE and MOUTH. 

If you have been exposed or have symptoms associated with COVID or Flu, isolate yourself as much as possible and inform those who may have been exposed to you. 

COVID may or may not be here to stay but learning to protect ourselves from the viruses we can name (and those we have yet to meet) seems certain.  We yearn for a world without these concerns and challenges, yet our current reality tells us where we are. 

Remember, we have a toolbox to draw from: the lessons we have learned these past three years.  Be mindful of the risk associated with activities that may have a likelihood of exposure. Use the tools we have at our disposal to reduce your risk of all transmissible illnesses. 

Here’s to a Healthier 2024.