Central Texas ERs seeing concerning numbers of flu, RSV, COVID-19 cases


FOX 7 Discussion: COVID, RSV, flu “tripledemic” hitting Central Texas

Dr. Mason Mileur, a board-certified internal medicine doctor with Austin Medical Associates, joins FOX 7 Austin’s John Krinjak to talk about how Central Texas families can stay safe and healthy this holiday season as the “tripledemic” continues to impact Central Texas.

The so-called “tripledemic” continues to impact Central Texas, with emergency rooms seeing concerning numbers of flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID cases. 

With Christmas just a week away, the timing has some doctors worried.

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Dr. Mason Mileur, a board-certified internal medicine doctor with Austin Medical Associates, joins FOX 7 Austin’s John Krinjak to talk about how Central Texas families can stay safe and healthy this holiday season.

JOHN KRINJAK: So what are you seeing on the ground as a doctor? What is happening with this tripledemic in Central Texas right now? 

MASON MILEUR: Well, the tripledemic as we’re calling it, which would be RSV, flu and COVID. The issue would be if someone that was immunosuppressed or young or had some sort of other medical condition that would put them at greater risk if they did develop more than just one of those. You would have to worry a little bit about potential hospitalization or some other complications like that.

JOHN KRINJAK: And what symptoms should you be on alert for, especially if you or someone you know is in one of these groups. And how do you know when you need to go to the ER versus just going to the regular doctor, maybe even staying home and just kind of writing it out, right?

MASON MILEUR: Exactly, John. Yeah. There’s kind of two ways to think about it. First of all, do I have it? And second, should I be worried? So the first question, do I have it or not? Flu and COVID both feel really similar. And so it would be really tough to know if you were between the two which one you have. But the cardinal symptoms, as we all know now, the fatigue, coughing, sneezing, maybe a little bit of shortness of breath, but we’re covered, does kind of distinguish itself, is more along the lines of having the loss of smell and you just kind of like a more severe flu. Now, RSV is a little bit different. You know, by the time you’re an adult, you’re going to have RSV many times in your life. And so RSV, if we’re worried about for children, they’re usually less than six months old or they’re born premature. And so if you start to hear wheezing or it looks like the child is really have a tough time breathing, it could be RSV. But either way, that’s definitely a time when you would go ask your doctor or just go to the emergency room.

JOHN KRINJAK: So obviously Christmas is just about a week away. A lot of people are going to be traveling the upcoming week. A lot of family gatherings. People are going to be in close contact. What level of precautions should people be taking? How worried should people be about coming in contact given what’s going on?

MASON MILEUR: Sure. So what I tell all my patients is that it is a balance of risk versus benefit. So if the people you’re visiting it yourself are pretty healthy, then I think as long as you’re doing the basic things, you know, like washing your hands, trying to make sure if you’re feeling sick that you don’t join in with the greater gathering. I think that’s all pretty smart. But where it gets a little trickier is if you have some other kind of medical problems, like out of control, diabetes or asthma or COPD or heart failure, that’s when it becomes a little more risky. And so then you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? I can tell you this, that thankfully it is much less lethal than it used to be in terms of the mutation of the virus and with early intervention and with the vaccine. So all three of those do provide layers of protection for you. So if you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet and you’re one of those high risk patients, absolutely. Go get the booster. Kind of the same holds true of flu and it also kills about 25,000 people a year in the United States. We don’t think about that a lot. But the purpose of the flu vaccine is so that if you get sick, hopefully it’s not so serious if you go to a hospital.

JOHN KRINJAK: So it’s not too late. Those vaccines can still be worthwhile. Is there anything people need to know about the time? And can you get the COVID one and the flu one at the same time?

MASON MILEUR: Yes. The one exception to that would be if you’ve had a really severe reaction to like that COVID shot in the past, I probably would try to spread that out a little bit by maybe a few days or a week. But there’s nothing that is innately wrong with just getting both that at the same time.

JOHN KRINJAK: All right. Dr. Mason Mileur from Austin Medical Association. Dr. Miller, thanks for being here. We appreciate your insight.

MASON MILEUR: My pleasure. Thanks, John.