Profile Q & A with Dr. Catherine Bodnar, Midland County Medical Director

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a greater focus on the impact illnesses have on the community, workplace, and home. Add to that the annual concerns about the flu and a greater concern this year about another virus, RSV.
Dr. Catherine Bodnar is the Medical Director for the Midland County Department of Public Health.
To help guide us through these concerns as we head into winter, Catalyst spoke with Dr. Catherine Bodnar, the medical director for the Midland County Department of Public Health for over four years. She joined the county after retiring from a career at Dow. 

Q: Please give our readers information on how Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is affecting  Midland County, and how that may be challenging given its also cold and flu season. 

A: RSV and the flu are striking earlier in the 2022-23 cold and flu season than past seasons. This year’s pediatric respiratory season is extremely challenging as the numbers of sick children have the potential to overwhelm hospitals, emergency rooms and urgent care centers. Our community is currently seeing high levels of RSV in young children and flu is on the increase, especially in southeast Michigan. MyMichigan Health is currently seeing more pediatric admissions for RSV than they have seen in many years. Pre-schools and elementary schools are seeing clusters of absenteeism from some classrooms. Ten times as many cases of confirmed influenza were reported to the Midland County Department of Public Health  (co.midland.mi.us) (MCDPH) in October 2022 compared to the most recent pre-pandemic October 2019. 

Q: How is the COVID-19 transmission level in the county and what do you predict in the upcoming months?

A: COVID-19 is still circulating at substantial transmission levels with an overall low community impact level. Many experts fear a surge of COVID-19 this winter.

COVID-19 vaccines are available at the Midland County Services Building.
Q:  What would you advise to the community to prevent illness this winter?

A:  Make a plan for the cold and flu season. 
1.) Get vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19 and the flu. COVID-19 and Flu vaccines are available for ages 6 months and older. Bivalent (updated) boosters are available for ages 5 years and older, with the 6 month-4 year old bivalent booster anticipated to be approved by the end of the year or early 2023. COVID-19 and flu vaccines may be given at the same visit.

Q: What else should people remember about staying healthy this winter?

A: Prevent the spread of illness by staying home, if you have symptoms. Masks are helpful tools to reduce the spread of colds, flu and COVID-19. Understand that others may have different risks than yours and respect their mask choice. Cover coughs, sneezes and wash hands.

Keep a supply of over the counter COVID-19 kits. Tests may be useful for early detection of COVID-19, especially if symptomatic or recent exposure. If you have symptoms and test negative, repeat the test in 48 hours. If you have been exposed, test if symptomatic or on day 5 if without symptoms.
Image from a flu vaccine clinic in 2021.
Q: What would some of the cold, flu or RSV symptoms look like? And when should someone go seek help?

A: Symptoms such as runny nose, cough, congestion, sore throat, ear pain and fever. Call 911 or go to an emergency department right away for: life threatening conditions, severe chest pains or pressure, difficulty breathing. If a child has difficulty breathing, the child might appear pale or bluish skin color, breathing fast or belly breathing, nasal flaring-nostrils widen with each breath in retractions-chest pulls in around the neck and ribs with each breath, clammy skin -cool but also sweaty.

Q: How can someone learn more about therapeutics for those illnesses? And what should someone do should they test positive or have symptoms of RSV, the flu, or COVID-19?  

A:  A person should talk to their primary care provider about whether they are eligible for antivirals for the flu or COVID-19, if the person tests positive. Learn more about those therapeutics by going to Michigan.gov/COVIDTherapy. And if a person should become ill, choose the right site of care. Call a primary health care provider, pediatrician or consider an urgent care if you need help managing symptoms; virtual visits may be an option.


 

Read more articles by Erika M. Hirschman.

A veteran freelance writer and former reporter with The Midland Daily News, Erika has covered a wide array of topics in and around Midland and Saginaw counties. She’s an award winning reporter, and holds a journalism degree from the University of Detroit-Mercy/Marygrove College. When Erika is not writing, she enjoys dancing in her kitchen with her two dogs and family. She loves to read, cook, travel and go to concerts. She’s lived in Saginaw County for 26 years.