Guam is seeing a sharp rise in respiratory illnesses. And while we’ve begrudgingly accepted the truth that COVID is here to stay and we're all on the lookout for the swirling effects of the flu, the local Department of Public Health has noted an uptick in the volume of cases of RSV - a very common, but potentially lethal disease affecting our ability to breathe.

The agency’s acting chief public health officer, Zennia Pecina, detailed which members of our island community are most-affected by RSV.  “For those of you who are wondering about the differences between RSV, the flu and COVID-19 - just remember that they’re all viruses," she told KUAM News. "So, it’s just a different type of virus, so how are you going to know which you have? You won’t until you go get tested.”

This means the symptoms are just like those in COVID, but can also accelerate to wheezing or a cough that can sound like a dog barking.  “This occurs, mostly, in children younger than one year, or in older people 65 years or older. So this virus, it’s mild and it mimics the common cold," Pecina explained.

While RSV is hitting us in conjunction with COVID and the flu, the latest virus to make its way into the public lexicon does have some telltale signs, such as being a prime contributor to bronchiolitis in very young babies and the elderly, as well as pneumonia.  Pecina continued, “It enters through the eyes, the nose and the mouth. So anytime anyone coughs, you might want to stay away, and make sure you have your mask on.”

Annette Aguon, a veteran of Public Health’s Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, says that much like COVID, the treatment and prevention tactics for RSV come down to some now-familiar practices at home, in school and on the job.

 “Stay home if you’re sick," she advised, echoing advice given over the last three years. "Avoid close contact with anyone who has symptoms. And again, we can’t emphasize enough the Three Ws: Wear your mask, Wash your hands, and Watch your distance.”

Both ladies also strenuously urged the community to get vaccinated, so these viruses do have specific treatments designed to make their impacts on you milder, should you contract them. “Check with your primary doctor," Pecina said. "We have them available at the Northern and Southern public health centers, and look out for our outreach events and we just had one over the weekend.”

And immunization is key to keeping the volume of cases down, easing the strain on our hospitals and clinics - especially with this being Thanksgiving Week AND the middle of the rainy season. Public Health isn’t taking this latest item of concern lightly - and neither should you.

 “The flu trends that you’re hearing about are just on the U.S. side. That’s their winter season," Aguon pointed out. "On Guam, we don’t have a winter, but or flu season is year-round. So we want to emphasize that if you didn’t get it [a vaccine], then it’s not too late. Get it as soon as you can.”

The data profiling how widespread not just RSV, but the continuing concerns with COVID and influenza are, are being compiled and will be presented at a press conference later this week.