RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Following surging cases of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV, health officials are warning of a so-called “septa-demic” ahead of the holiday season.

In addition to the three aforementioned respiratory illnesses, parainfluenza (the cause of croup and tracheitis), metapneumovirus, rhinovirus and pneumococcus (a non-viral pathogen that can cause severe illness, especially among seniors) are on doctors’ radars.

“The vast majority of the public can have these viruses and really get through them within a few days and be just fine,” Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center Medical Director Dr. Chris Crowell told 8News. “But the patients that are more elderly patients with chronic respiratory or lung issues, and cancer patients, those types of patients, really, we would not want them to get these viruses because it can be much more serious.”

Virginia mother Inda Taylor found that to be the case with her 3-year-old son, who also has autism, making it difficult to communicate about what he was feeling.

“When he got it, he couldn’t breathe. It was just terrible. We went back and forth to the doctor,” she said. “They’re telling me all the beds are filled up with kids with RSV.”

Taylor said it was when her son’s fever wouldn’t break that she realized he would need more serious medical intervention, beyond the over-the-counter medications she had been trying.

“Kids are dying from it. So I wanted to makes sure my son wasn’t one of those kids,” she said. “I want parents to be cautious and safe, and make sure if you feel like your kid is getting worse, take them to the doctor and stay on top of it.”

Heading into the holiday weekend, Taylor said that she is taking it day-by-day, weighing the risk of exposure to respiratory illnesses for her son against gathering as a family.

That’s the message from Patty Olinger with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, as well.

“We’re seeing numbers go up in hospital systems,” she said. “Our herd immunity, you might say, has gone down. Maybe we haven’t kept up on the vaccines that we need to keep up on, like flu vaccines, and so we’re starting to see those numbers go up, and it’s not just with COVID, it’s not just with the flu; it’s all of these different respiratory viruses that are coming into play.”

Aside from mask-wearing, social distance and regular hygiene and hand washing, Olinger noted that everyday health and fitness plays a major role in battling these respiratory illnesses.

“Stay in the best shape that you can,” she said. “We’ve all been sitting in our officers for the last two years — two or three years now — and being on Zoom and being on these conference calls, and we don’t get up and do those exercises. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others.”

Dr. Crowell said that Bon Secours has also seen surging hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses, particularly over the last month.

“We’ve seen a little bit of a tailing over the last week where some of those numbers have decreased slightly,” he said. “What we’re trying to urge is just, when people are sick, to not go to large gatherings, those type of things, to try to minimize because it is very contagious, just like most of the respiratory illnesses we’re familiar with. […] There isn’t a treatment that can be prescribed to you for most of these viruses.”

Crowell noted that there is often a spike in certain illnesses around this time of year, albeit typically later in the winter season, as there may be hesitations to change travel plans.

“Good, supportive care for these viruses is what’s most important, and minimizing the spread,” he said. “Patients having severe chest pain, trouble breathing and fevers that are persisting more than two to three days […] should see care at your local emergency department.”