A healthy new year; Perham Health starts 2023 with declining disease rate – Perham Focus

Tim Studer

Contribution / Cheers Perham

PERHAM — Winter is almost always a busy time for healthcare professionals, especially those who work in emergency rooms. Now, with COVID-19 thrown into the mix, the last few years of flu season care has looked a little different everywhere, including at Perham Health. Emergency room doctor Tim Studer spends many hours in the Perham hospital emergency room treating illnesses each winter and recently took time out to explain the current state of health in the community.

“(Respiratory disease numbers) were very high from mid-December to Christmas or so,” Studer said. “And now, the numbers have dropped quite dramatically. We’re still seeing some of that, but the numbers have thankfully dropped over the last week (as of Tuesday, Jan. 10).”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, adults were not tested frequently for respiratory syncytial virus, as it was viewed as an infant test. Now, Studer explained that Perham Health has a quad test, where they can check a patient for influenza A and B, RSV and COVID-19 all in one swab. The numbers for each disease increased at Perham Health throughout December before gradually declining at the end of the month.

In the week of December 11 to 17, 62 cases of influenza, 23 cases of RSV and three cases of COVID-19 were recorded. From December 18 to 24, the hospital recorded 29 cases of influenza, 11 cases of RSV and seven cases of COVID-19. From December 25 to 31, they recorded 13 cases of influenza, 10 cases of RSV and four cases of COVID-19. From January 1 to 7, they recorded nine cases of influenza, eight cases of RSV and four cases of COVID-19.

“During those busy weeks, we were seeing 25, 30 people a day total, half of whom were flu, RSV or COVID,” Studer said. “And we’ve occasionally had quite severe cases. We’ve hospitalized some children with RSV. We’ve moved others in Fargo to the pediatric unit. Older people generally get sick as well. We’ve hospitalized several older people with the flu.”

Studer said this number of patients isn’t particularly uncommon this time of year. On Dec. 30, a Facebook memory from about 11 years ago popped up that said they saw 30 patients with flu-like illnesses a day for three days. The biggest change now is the addition of testing for COVID-19 and RSV.

Regardless, this large number of diseases can strain hospital resources. According to Studer, Perham Health has about nine emergency rooms available. On busy days, they have each room filled with seven or eight extra patients waiting to be seen sometimes for hours at a time. Emergency room workers do what they can, but there’s only so much they can do when there are so many sick people to care for at once.

Studer offered some tips to the community to help stay healthy and relieve stress for emergency room workers: wash your hands; don’t put them in your mouth or touch your face. If you find yourself in a situation where there is respiratory illness, he considers wearing a mask.

“If you’re sick, stay home,” Studer advised. “That’s the important point. If people don’t get together with other people when they’re sick, they won’t pass it on to others… If we pass it on to younger children and older people who don’t have good immune systems, it’s potentially deadly to them. So it’s important to stay healthy, and if you’re sick, stay away from children and older people, especially as they are at a higher risk of developing complications from these diseases more than other people.”

Studer also recommends staying home or going to the clinic rather than the emergency room if your illness isn’t an emergency. Emergency sickness symptoms include chest pain and extreme shortness of breath. He stressed that they’re always happy to see people in the emergency room, but they need to focus emergency care on people who are emergency sick. The general clinic is available for those experiencing mild symptoms.

For more information about the care provided by Perham Health, visit perhamhealth.org. Contact them with questions at 218-347-4500 or [email protected]

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