COVID, flu proving to be worrisome combination once again

By Per Peterson

The resurgence of COVID-19 through a third variant (Omicron) and the start of flu season is once again proving to be a worrisome combination.

“I feel like we did see kind of an uptick a week or two ago — kind of coming back around to more COVID again,” said Joe Bretschneider, Certified Physician Assistant with Sanford Tracy. “COVID’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel all fall. We’ve had a mixture of different things, but we’ve always had COVID.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, Omicron is a strain of the virus and moves quickly, reportedly doubling every one-and-a-half to three days. In Minnesota, the large number of cases suggest widespread community transmission, leading to an estimated 90% of cases currently attributed to Omicron.

Bretschneider said the wake of influenza has resulted in a mixing of sorts of symptoms. He said symptoms like body aches, fever and headaches are more commonly associated with the common flu, but COVID can share a lot of those symptoms. The main exception to that is COVID comes with severe respiratory symptoms.

“Testing is kind of an issue — the ability to get tests,” Bretschneider said. “We’re trying to really control the way we’re testing to kind of preserve our resources. I think we’re going to probably start seeing hospitals run out of testing.”

Bretschneider said Sanford’s priority continues to be COVID-19 and wants to rule that out first when it comes to patient care.

“If we rule that out, then we can look at influenza — I think COVID is kind of still our top priority,” he said. “In years past, with influenza, we may not even test everybody for it because it’s something that’s going around.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.