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Non-COVID-19 sicknesses worse this fall than normal, doctors say

Posted at 9:03 PM, Oct 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-01 23:47:53-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The exam rooms in the pediatric office finally emptied out just after 5 p.m. Friday at Intermountain Alta View Clinic. Dr. Carla Suarez, a pediatrician at the clinic, got a moment to slow down and go home.

The schedule lately has been jam-packed, she indicated.

"We have been very busy seeing illness in our clinic," Dr. Suarez explained.

READ: Utah doctors expect more severe flu season this year

It's not even winter, but it almost feels like it if you ask her. Patients with non-COVID-19 sicknesses are coming in for office visits. It seems those illnesses are out in full force and spreading fast in the community, and Dr. Suarez said it's affecting both kids and adults.

She said usually, they don't see this many cases and this early in the season.

There might be a reason things are bad this year.

"I think as we are seeing less masking, less social distancing, more gathering, we're seeing more spread of this illness. We are seeing a rise in these viruses," she said.

She listed sicknesses like adenovirus, rhinovirus, RSV, human metapneumovirus, and — coming soon — influenza.

READ: COVID not the only virus causing problems around Utah

The symptoms will make it hard to tell what the heck someone caught.

"This is where it gets kind of tricky," Dr. Suarez explained. "Some of these symptoms definitely overlap with COVID-19 symptoms, so a lot of that can be difficult to decipher. So, we see things like fever, you can see kind of red puffy eyes, as well as other symptoms such as nasal congestion, and cough."

People can track which illnesses are making the rounds on the Intermountain GermWatch webpage.

Her best advice?

Get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu. She said now is the time to get the flu vaccine, because influenza could be bad this year and the vaccine takes a couple of weeks to take effect.

Dr. Suarez also urged people to wash their hands frequently and keep those masks around.

And if you do feel sick, she relayed that it's best to stay away from others.

"It'll be really important to stay home this winter to help decrease the spread of illnesses," Dr. Suarez said.

And if right now is any sign, Dr. Suarez indicated that we could be in for a long winter cold season if people don't take the right precautions.