Mini Medical School: Infectious Diseases Update

March 1, 2023

A trifecta of infectious illnesses—COVID-19, flu and RSV- peaked during the winter months and RSV could spike again in the spring, according to Dr. Tom Weida, a professor of family medicine at the College of Community Health Sciences and chief medical officer for University Medical Center.

Weida provided updates about the three infectious diseases during a Mini Medical School presentation to OLLI members in February, explaining that infectious diseases are illnesses caused by germs that enter the body, multiply and cause an infection.

Recent studies show that RSV, flu and COVID-19 have been the most prevalent diseases in the United States and around the world.

COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, began spreading rapidly in early 2020. More than 660 million cases of the disease have been reported worldwide, resulting in 6.7 million deaths, Weida said. “It had 1% death rate, and here in the United States a 1.2% death rate is extraordinarily high for an infectious disease.”

Weida also said that the U.S. was recording a daily COVID-19 positive test rate of 12.7% as of Jan. 16, 2023. He said approximately 75% of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. since the pandemic began have occurred in people aged 65 or older.

Treatments used for COVID-19 include Paxlvoid, Vexlury and Lagevrio.

Another infectious disease, influenza, more commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.

Vaccination rates for flu are approximately 34% for adults and 23% for children. Treatments used for flu include Tamiflu, Relenza, Rapivab and Xofluza.

The last of the three infectious diseases is RSV or respiratory syncytial, which is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia (infection of the lungs). Children younger than two years and adults 65 years and older who get RSV are at risk for serious illness.

The medication used for RSV prevention in high-risk children is Palivizumab, a monoclonal antibody.

Weida said the best way to help prevent and fight infectious diseases is to practice hand hygiene and to get vaccinated.