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Uptick in NC respiratory virus hospitalizations, as school year commences

Pediatricians are seeing a back-to-school correlation with an increased spread of germs and pre-fall illnesses.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — With the fall semester well underway, students are bringing home plenty of new semester stories, loads of homework and...a plethora of germs.

The NC Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported emergency visits for respiratory viruses are up 6.2 percent from last week.

Suresh Nagappan, MD, the medical director for the children's unit at Cone Health Moses Cone Hospital, joined the Good Morning Show to outline the surge in sickness correlated with back-to-school time.


"We're seeing some usual culprits -- RSV, rhinovirus, and those are things we see every year... What we're hoping to avoid is what happened last year. So last year, we had the worst virus season we've ever had. We were overwhelmed with patients," Nagappan explained.

He said he suspects post-pandemic life played a role in the rampant germ spread of 2022, and he already has seen signs this year will be less severe for illnesses.


That said, NCDHHS also is reporting nearly 500 hospital admissions for COVID since last week. Nagappan noted most of the severe COVID cases are not children, though children can indeed contract and carry the virus, spreading it to others.

"In terms of if your child tests positive and they have mild symptoms, you want to keep them at home and do all the stuff Grandma told you -- fluids, rest and all that -- and you want to keep them home for five days. At that point, you can do another test, and if that test is negative, they can go back to school, back out, wearing a mask for another five days, so it's a 10-day total process," he explained.

He said he is recommending parents consider vaccinating their children against COVID, noting the new variant-specific vaccine available soon will also be available to children.


Flu is the next concern on the horizon, and Nagappan predicts an earlier-than-normal season, similar to that of last year.

He recommended parents get their children the flu vaccine as soon as possible.


Gastrointestinal issues also are quite common this time of year, though the underlying cause can be wide-ranging.

Children who complain their tummies hurt could be exhibiting symptoms of a G.I. bug or, rather, nervousness and anxiety about going to school.

"If you're seeing the pattern where it hurts on weekdays and not weekends or holidays, that gives you a clue, he said. The other thing to keep in mind is they're not really "faking it." Anxiety really does cause pain. It really does cause discomfort. It's worth sitting down with your child and finding out why," he emphasized.

RELATED: Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, Strep, Adenoviruses spreading rampantly among children this summer

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