Respiratory cases in Lassen County on the decline, but rising in Plumas

Health issues can be quite different just across county lines. While the number of respiratory cases at Banner Lassen Hospital peaked in the past couple of weeks in Lassen County and are currently on the decline, they are on the rise in Plumas County.

According to Banner Lassen Hospital, it experienced a large increase in cases five or six weeks ago, but in the last week and a half the number of cases has fallen.

Hopefully that pattern will hold, but we should be aware of the precautions being taken in Plumas County, just the same.

The news from Plumas County we all should heed
Cases of  flu, RSV and COVID are all on the increase across the state and nation — giving rise to the terms tripledemic and tridemic — and Plumas County is not immune.

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“All local hospitals are seeing an increase in RSV and the flu,” said Public Health Director Dana Loomis.

In the county thus far, influenza A has been the dominant strain detected. COVID numbers are also on the increase, with one hospitalization reported.

Since all three respiratory illnesses share similar symptoms, the only way to know for sure what an individual has contracted is to test. Loomis said he is encouraging all of the clinics and hospitals to test so that the proper course of treatment can be given.

“Nationwide we don’t have comprehensive data,” Loomis  added. That’s largely because before COVID, a person presenting with flu-like symptoms was presumed to have the flu — and during COVID, flu cases dropped dramatically because people were isolated, wearing masks and being diligent about hand washing. Now that flu, RSV and COVID are spreading simultaneously, it’s important to test.

That has been the case at Eastern Plumas Health Care in Portola, where Michelle Romero, the healthcare district’s infectious disease specialist, said they regularly test for all four:  influenza A and B; RSV and COVID.

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“We are very, very busy,” Romero said with regard to the number of cases that are presenting at the clinic and the hospital. “At beginning of November, we had no cases of influenza A, and just in the week from Nov. 28 to Dec. 4 we had 35 cases.” She said thus far there has been one case of influenza B. Eastern Plumas tracks their numbers by week.

Romero said they have also seen a lot of RSV. When asked if there was any particular age most impacted, she said that the cases have been across the board.

If influenza is detected, Tamiflu can be prescribed; if it’s COVID, then Paxlovid is an option; and for RSV, medications can be prescribed to treat the symptoms.

RSV has been hitting children particularly hard with some youngsters ending up in the ICU at Renown Medical Center in Reno.

“We don’t have pediatricians in the county or pediatric hospital beds,” Loomis said, “but because they (beds) are filling up elsewhere, we are keeping some kids here.”

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Darren Beatty, the chief operating officer of Plumas District Hospital in Quincy, said that they are “comfortable treating RSV in pediatric cases” at the hospital.

And though the Plumas District clinics and hospital have seen an increase in cases, it hasn’t impacted capacity.

The increase in illness locally mirrors what has happened in the state over the past two weeks. And health officials are attributing at least some of the increase to Thanksgiving gatherings and worry that it will continue through Christmas and into the new year.

And it’s not just flu and RSV. The state of California is reporting a 114 percent increase in the number of COVID cases in the past two weeks, with hospitalizations up 150 percent. The state is now at an 11 percent positivity rate, which doesn’t include at-home tests.

“Locally, our COVID numbers are going up, following a bit of a lull,” Loomis said. “Is this just post-holiday or the beginning of a trend? We will see.”

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He, like his counterparts across the country, are encouraging people to get the flu shot and a COVID booster if they haven’t already.

Individuals can also do what they did during the worst of the pandemic — wash hands frequently and wear a mask in crowds.

And if they do get sick, are there medications available? Shortages have been reported across the state and locally, but what about here? Loomis said that he has heard there is a shortage of Tamiflu in the county, and other healthcare providers have said there is a shortage of over-the-counter remedies.