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Amid the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in South Dakota and around the country, more people are calling and visiting their primary care providers, but the diagnosis isn't always the same.
Doctors at Avera Health and Sanford Health told the Argus Leader this week that while they're still getting a lot of people visiting for COVID-19, there's other viruses causing people to get sick this time of year that the public should be aware of.
"There are multiple respiratory viruses that can cause similar upper respiratory and lower respiratory symptoms as COVID," said Jennifer Hsu, an infectious disease doctor at Sanford.
What other viruses are causing illnesses in Sioux Falls?
Hsu told the Argus Leader the top three most frequent viruses detected by the Sanford Sioux Falls Region Lab outside of COVID-19 were: Rhinovirus/Enterovirus, influenza A and human metapneumovirus.
The top three viruses detected by Sanford have very similar symptoms to COVID-19, Hsu said. A runny nose, nasal sinus congestion, sore throat, cough, fever and body aches are all similar symptoms seen in COVID-19 and some of the other viruses going around Sioux Falls.
Mark List, a family doctor for Avera, told the Argus Leader he's seen people go to his clinic who test negative for COVID-19 and the flu. Many of his patients just have the common cold or pneumonia.
The South Dakota Department of Health doesn't track case numbers for viruses other than COVID-19 and the flu each year, according to its Communication Director, Daniel Bucheli.
The latest data from the Department of Health has the flu "widespread" across South Dakota for the week ending Jan. 15. Since the start of the season the state's seen 5,755 cases of the flu.
"As with any other illness, we encourage residents to monitor symptoms and contact their medical providers, if symptoms or length of illness is longer than what they usually experience, for an examination appointment," Bucheli told the Argus Leader via email.
List also noted flu season is nearing its peak while RSV season is about to kickoff. RSV cases will start picking up within the next two months, according to List.
"Even if you're COVID negative, it can still impact your health, right?," List said. "Pneumonia, influenza, those things have been around way before COVID started and can still really impact people's health."
When should people go to the doctor?
Both List and Hsu agreed that although a person may test negative for COVID-19 they should still check in with their doctors if they're experiencing symptoms, especially shortness of breath.
"Don't go to work, even if it's COVID negative. Don’t infect your coworkers, keep sick kids at home, keep them out of daycare, if they're having fevers," List said. "If they're having RSV like symptoms, don't expose other people."
List also noted Avera is seeing a "short-run" of viral gastroenteritis in Sioux Falls. The viral infection in the GI tract causes nausea and vomiting, according to List.
How to avoid getting sick?
Doctors are seeing families with small children contribute to the spread of viruses. Schools and daycares are common locations for outbreaks of things like RSV and the flu.
Hsu told the Argus Leader prevention tactics are the same for any illness. Hand washing is key and wearing a high-quality and fitted face mask.
"Staying home if we're the ones who are sick so that we're not spreading our respiratory viruses, and then trying to minimize contact with large groups of people," Hsu said.
If you get sick, over-the-counter medicines can help alleviate symptoms but should symptoms persist or get serious both List and Hsu recommend people contact their doctors.
Is a flu shot still worth it?
Flu season peaks in South Dakota around the third week of February each year but that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't get your flu shot, according to Hsu.
"Most people have their maximal immune response to the vaccine within about 14 days and so we do see flu seasons that extend well into March and even in some years into April," Hsu said.
Flu shots can be administered the same day as COVID shots, according to Hsu.
Got a story idea from your community? Email reporter Alfonzo Galvan at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @GalvanReports.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Negative COVID test but still sick? Other viruses doctors are seeing