Franklin Memorial Hospital entrance is open and ready to help on Wednesday, Dec. 28. FMH is fully prepared to handle cases of flu and RSV, even among Franklin County’s most vulnerable citizens. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

With flu season beginning earlier than usual, Franklin Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Ross Isacke hopes this could mean an early end for the influx of flu and RSV patients.

FARMINGTON — As cases for respiratory syncytial virus [RSV] and influenza continue to rise in the state of Maine, Franklin Memorial Hospital [FMH] finds itself in a better position than most to handle the large influx of patients, particularly in their pediatric care.

“We’re really fortunate here in Franklin, though, compared to a lot of other community hospitals,” FMH Chief Medical Officer Ross Isacke said in a phone interview on Tuesday, Dec. 27. “We take care of more kids here; we have a really great pediatrics group who does a decent amount of inpatient work with kids here. And so, we’re better positioned than some of the other smaller hospitals throughout the state to be able to manage kids.”

The most susceptible to RSV are primarily those with weakened immune systems. Children and the elderly are the two groups that account for most the RSV inpatient care at FMH.

“With RSV, you’ll catch it the same way that [you] catch a cold, and those who are particularly young and particularly old, their immune systems aren’t able to handle it the way those of us who are not at those extremes of life,” Isacke said.

According to Isacke, adults with healthy immune systems would see it as a cold and nothing more. “RSV for people who are healthy adults, it’s not a big deal. It’s a cold for us,” he said.


This number is only for reported cases, as not everyone who contracts the flu gets tested, therefore the actual number of influenza cases may be underreported.

Dr. Mary Ottolini, chair of pediatrics at The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland, told the Portland Press Herald the COVID-19 pandemic likely contributed to the early onset of RSV, as this is the first winter since 2019-20 without COVID-19 restrictions such as mask mandates and limits on gathering sizes that suppressed many respiratory infections.

According to Isacke, COVID-19 is not a direct issue for FMH, but still a contributing factor to the rise in cases in Franklin County.

“What we’re seeing is kind of a perfect storm for our emergency departments, where there are more inpatients than there were previously, they’re staying in the emergency room longer than before. And we’re also seeing more emergencies come in, such that our emergency departments in particular are very stretched,” Isacke stated.

“We’ve had a lot of strain on the system as a result of [COVID-19]. We have fewer staffers than we did previously. All of that is trickling down into every aspect of care here, whether it’s supply chain, having nurses at bedside.”

“COVID-19 is still haunting us,” he added.


Despite this, Isacke asserted that flu and RSV account for most of their recent admissions. “[COVID-19] directly is not causing pediatric hospitalizations, to any great degree. It’s RSV and flu for the most part,” he stated.

Unlike the flu and COVID-19, no vaccination for RSV has been developed. Federal officials on Friday said they hope to have an RSV vaccine within the next two years, the Portland Press Herald reported.

According to Isacke, FMH saw their first admission for the flu in early November, which according to him is much earlier than usual. Isacke hopes this could mean an early end to the typical flu season.

“We typically think of flu season starting in earnest around now. And so, I’m hopeful that what this means is, despite the fact that it’s tough, we’re going to see an earlier peak in both RSV and flu, and they’ll go down earlier than they have in past years,” he said.

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