Florida town hit by ‘triple threat’ of respiratory illnesses

Tampa Bay, Florida, is battling a unique combination of three separate respiratory illnesses, causing mass hospitalizations. Area doctors are calling it a “triple threat”.

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Red tide, COVID-19 and bronchitis are “waging war” on the area, doctors told WFLA.

Red tide is a harmful algal bloom that can cause respiratory system issues in humans. Doctors say that the symptoms usually include a short-lived but intense cough that can sometimes be fatal. Experts said this year’s bloom is the worst the area has seen since 1971.

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In addition to complications from red tide exposure, COVID-19 hospitalizations have tripled in the area, including among children. FOX 13 reported COVID-19 cases have increased by 87% in kids under 12, and 84% in children 12-17. Most infections are believed to be the delta variant.

COVID-19 and bronchitis can be difficult to tell apart from one another, Tampa Bay Area doctor John Greene told WFLA, but the telltale sign of COVID is the loss of taste and smell.

To make matters worse, doctors say that since most respiratory illnesses occur in winter, hospitals are unprepared to take on the three illnesses in the middle of summer.

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“Hospitals have to be constantly on the alert to handle these large influxes. We plan every winter to have more respiratory illnesses, because that’s when they occur. Now we’re in the summer time and we’re having another increase, and it’s defying our normal planning strategies.”