Local hospitals seeing fewer cases of flu, more cases of RSV

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Beacon Health System reports much lower numbers of the flu this year compared to last year.

As of Thursday, Beacon had 84 flu cases at Elkhart General and Memorial hospitals.

By the same time last year, they saw six times as many cases at the hospitals, when the H3 strain of the flu was more predominant, making people sicker.

"This year, we are seeing quite a bit of H1N1, which is a strain of the flu virus, and it is one that is covered in this year's vaccine, so hopefully, it's that more people are getting the vaccination, which is lessening the effects here in the hospital," said Sarah Paturalski, the vice president of nursing and clinical services at Memorial Hosptial.

Doctors also want people to be aware of a virus that's also more preventable this time of year that is not the flu. That's respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

It usually affects people older than 65 or children younger than 5 years old. But this season, Beacon Health System reports its sicker patients at the children's hospital are younger than 2 months old. Some have had to go the intensive care unit and needed breathing tubes.

RSV symptoms are what you'd think of for any virus affecting the lungs: cold, cough, runny nose and trouble breathing.

So how can you save your family a trip to the hospital?

"I would say wash your hands often," Beacon Children's Hospital Dr. Nikhil Patankar said. "And for kids, usually avoid, if you're sick, avoid kissing the kids, clean off your kitchen islands, the door knobs."

The doctor also said people should avoid sharing utensils with the sick person and cover your mouth if you cough.