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Bowling Green pediatrician: Rising number of hospitalizations due to RSV, flu, likely in coming weeks

Kentucky Hospital Association

While hospitalizations related to respiratory illnesses are spiking in other parts of Kentucky, the largest hospital in Bowling Green has so far not seen a major surge in severely ill patients this fall.

But a physician at Med Center Health says it may be just a matter of time before local hospitalizations due to the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, begin to grow.

Dr. Suman Shekarspecializes in pediatrics and internal medicine at Med Center Health’s primary care facility in Bowling Green. She said she won’t be surprised if southern Kentucky soon sees a big increase in the number of admitted patients suffering from those illnesses.

“I think it’s just the timing. We’re not seeing that yet, but we might be seeing the surge in a couple of weeks.”

The Louisville-Jefferson County area has seen a major increase in RSV patients this fall compared to the same time last year. WFPL reported officials at Norton Children’s Hospital also said they were seeing spikes in both rhinovirus and enterovirus, which often lead to cases of the common cold.

Earlier this month, WEKU reported the Fayette County Health Department have said they’re seeing the flu run rampant in their community.

All of this comes as the threat of a COVID-19 surge remains a distinct possibility. As the weather continues to get colder and drives more people indoors, and the end-of-year holiday season leads to large indoor gatherings, more cases of coronavirus could be transmitted throughout the region.

Dr. Shekar with Med Center Health in Bowling Green said she’s concerned about the possibility of young people being sick with some combination of flu, RSV, and COVID at the same time.

“It can be really bad—two viruses at the same time. The child can really feel bad, and it can be serious in less than five years and younger.”

She added that the prospect of having two respiratory illnesses at once is also very dangerous for young people who are immunocompromised or have asthma.

Dr. Shekar said one of the best ways to avoid contracting and spreading COVID and the flu is to get vaccinated. While there’s no vaccine for RSV, she said good hygiene practices such as avoiding coughing or sneezing into your hands, properly washing your hands, and staying home if you feel sick are some of the best ways to avoid the spread of respiratory illnesses.

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.