SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — “Right now what we’re seeing is your common late summer coughs and colds,” said Sanford Chief Physician Jeremy Cauwels, addressing the forms of illness we’re seeing circulating around now.

“We know that some of that is COVID,” Cauwels added. Thankfully what we also know is that this version of COVID hasn’t been as severe.”

Ty White, Director of Infection Prevention and Control for Monument Health, says that things are similar on the western side of the state. “We’re starting to see a slight uptick of COVID and regular rino and enteroviruses, which are normal cold viruses,” he said.

School has been in session for a few weeks across South Dakota, and we are seeing illness begin to circulate. While much of this illness may be COVID, a reason you may not suspect it may be down to the combination of the current strain being less severe, and youths being less susceptible.

“Generally they’re lower risk,” said Cauwels. “Generally kids fight off colds better than their parents.”

White acknowledged that there is traditionally an increase in respiratory illnesses once school starts, but that it’s hard to point to that as the definitive reason. “Some of the uptick could be related to that,” he said.

The other thing Cauwels highlighted was that even on the highest days in the labs, Sanford was seeing 20% of their tests come back as COVID. “Now we’re not running those tests on anyone that’s not feeling sick,” he qualified, “so we have to assume that some number, could be as high as 80%, aren’t suffering from COVID — they’re suffering from some other virus that’s out there.”

COVID has many cousins, Caulwels explained. “We know of several circulating corona-type viruses already out there in the world that just cause the common cold. What we also know is there’s lots of other kinds of viruses out there as well — all of those are possibilities.”

Just because your symptoms may be different than those of your child, you shouldn’t necessarily assume the root illness is different. “Many adults react very differently to viruses than kids do. We can presume that they’re the same virus, but many times we don’t have a firm laboratory-tested diagnosis to say ‘this is the virus I have, and this is the virus my kid has.’ Generally, the sickest person gets tested and then everybody stays home and recovers,” Cauwels said.

One upside going into this winter is that Cauwels says they are hoping for a good cold and flu season. Data coming out of South America shows the flu shot is highly effective this year, he pointed out.

The best time to get that flu shot? “We really start pushing hard, as Sanford Health, to get out there, especially in October, and get as many people flu shots as we can,” Cauwels said.

In terms of the current illness forecast: “What I can tell you right now is COVID is a little bit higher, but on the decline. We have seen effectively very little RSV, and almost no influenza so far,” said Cauwels. “We expect that to change as we get into the October/November timeframe.”

White emphasized the importance of getting your flu shot in the October time-frame, explaining how this is the optimal window to get the shot.

“[The flu shot] will take 3 to 4 weeks to become completely effective to prevent the spread or you catching influenza,” White said. “You want to get it right around the October time-frame to allow enough time for it to be effective if the season is later than normal.”

Essentially, October is the prime time because White clarified that the effectiveness of the flu shot typically lasts 4 to 5 months, meaning that if you get it in October, you’ll be protected if the season picks up in November, but also if the peak of the flu season is delayed until February, as it has been in the past.

If you have further questions, you’re in luck. Monument Health has itself a Nurse Triage Line; a free phone service through which people across South Dakota can call and talk directly with a Registered Nurse about their symptoms, who can help them understand the urgency of their situation and direct them to proper care.

The Nurse Triage Line can be reached by calling (605) 755-1350 on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (MST) and one weekend from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The call is free, and you do not need to have an existing relationship with a Monument Health provider.