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Northeast Ohio hospitals prepare for rough respiratory virus season

Besides COVID, all those other viruses we normally see will be back, too, but health experts are most worried about flu.

CLEVELAND — Even though COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are going down, it won't be a surprise to see an uptick in mild to moderate cases in the coming weeks as the weather gets colder and we move indoors.

"I don't think we'll be in a place where that alone will cause the hospitals to be overrun," Dr. Keith Armitage, Medical Director of University Hospitals Roe Green Center for Global Health and Travel Medicine, told 3News.

Since we're no longer masking and social distancing, all those other viruses we normally see will be back, too, but health experts are most worried about flu.

"It's highly, highly likely we're going to have a lot of influenza this year and it may be a bad year," Armitage said." And if you combine that with some COVID activity, it could put a strain on emergency rooms."

RELATED: The flu is back, and could be worse than usual this year

The typical six-week flu season hits between November and April, but in Northeast Ohio, usually January and February are the worst months.

"Most of us haven't experienced flu since 2019," Armitage explained, "so you combine that with a more aggressive strain this year, we may have a worse season."

"The reason there's concern is the Southern Hemisphere had a rough go with influenza this season," Cleveland Clinic pulmonologist, Dr. Abhijit Duggal added.

Another concern across the nation is the number of health care professionals leaving the field and staffing shortages hospitals are facing. Armitage says COVID-19 taught them how to deal with these issues.

"I think the health care systems in Northeast Ohio will do what it takes to take care of the patients," he said. "I think what gets cut in staffing shortages are elective procedures."

In addition, pediatricians are seeing an increase in cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in kids, and the Southern Hemisphere's flu season also hit children harder. So, the best defense shouldn't surprise you.

"As predicted, I'll tell you to get your flu shot," Armitage declared, "and it's super easy to get the new COVID booster at any pharmacy chain."

Both Armitage and Duggal hope there won't be another severe coronavirus variant emerging this season, but also say COVID is here to stay, for now.

"If we learned anything in the last two years, [it] is to be prepared for anything nature throws at us," Duggal said.

RELATED: Yes, you can get the omicron COVID-19 booster and the flu shot at the same time

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