Going viral

MARSHALL – Not one, not two, but three viral infections are going around this season – two respiratory infections and one gastrointestinal bug.

The good news is, they all tend to be short lived and most people recover quickly from them. The bad news? Many seem to be getting hit with one after the other.

The respiratory synctial virus (RSV) presents flu-like symptoms, surprising those who did get their flu shots.

“We screen with the Department of Health and we’ve seen as much of that over the past few weeks as influenza,” said Jo Debruycker, manager of the Health Learning Center at Affiliated Community Medical Centers office in Willmar. “We worry particularly about the kids and older people, but it happens to all ages.”

According to Debruycker, the RSV is a durable virus that can last for a long time on surfaces. It typically spreads when people cough on surfaces, or wipe their runny nose and touch a telephone, doorknob, or anything another person is going to touch. The preventive is of course, frequent hand washing and keeping surfaces clean.

The norovirus, also called viral gastroenteritis or the Norwalk-like virus, causes fever, chills, muscular aches and diarrhea.

“When you’re exposed it can develop within a day or two, or as soon as 12 hours,” Debruycker said. “You typically recover within a day or two but it hits like a mountain storm. We’re seeing it in schools, we’re seeing it everywhere.”

The two of these can hit with a one-two punch as a person recovering from one gets exposed to another with a weakened immune system.

“One virus does not give immunity to another,” Debruycker said.

Though miserable neither is generally a reason to worry, except for people whose immune systems have been compromised.

Somewhat more serious is a variety of coronovirus originally identified in animals – first monkeys and later in dogs and cats – which can jump species and infect humans.

“It’s very similar to RSV – runny nose, cough and sore throat,” Debruycker said. “The danger is adults can get pneumonia from it.”

According to the national Centers for Disease Control, of the respiratory pathogens identified from samples sent in by state health departments, about 20 percent are identified as flu, 20 percent as RSV and 10 percent as coronovirus.

The frustrating thing about viral infections is there’s not much your doctor can recommend that your mother didn’t know already: eating well, rest and plenty of fluids.

“There’s no easy pill, it’s just a matter of time,” Debruycker said, but cautioned, “don’t give kids under 18 aspirin for viral infections, you’re better off with Tylenol or Ibuprofin. And if you don’t see that corner being turned in two days and your fever is still up, and with respiratory infections your cough gets deeper and you have trouble breathing – it’s time to go in.”