As the holiday season is marred with the onslaught of the tripledemic, health experts share several tips to help citizens counter the surge of respiratory viruses.
The sudden surge of respiratory viruses has been attributed to higher travels over the holidays, starting during Thanksgiving. Scientists have called it a tripledemic because of the three prominent respiratory viruses affecting the populace – Covid-19, influence and the respiratory syncytial virus or RSV.
According to recent statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 77% of hospitals across the US are occupied with flu-afflicted patients. While Covid cases are down compared to last year, authorities still see a significant uptick in instances across states. For instance, almost 3,000 Americans are dying from respiratory diseases every week, sending alarms to health officials in the nation.
“Everyone is ready to do as much as they can that they have done in normal holiday periods, especially as many of us have given it up for a couple of years. We’re entering a new normal where we have to navigate how best to do what we want to do,” shared Dr. Henry Wu, an epidemiologist from Emory University.
In response to the unprecedented rise in cases of affected people, experts share their expert advice for people. Experts argue that following these directives could help families stop respiratory diseases from spreading and affecting vulnerable individuals.
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Plan the holidays safely
According to Wu, families must prioritize their activities and sort out those requiring meeting with others. Wu added that people need to think about the demographics of a particular gathering. Small get-togethers might be better than hosting a bigger one, especially if it involves children and older people. Respiratory diseases are more dangerous when it affects younger individuals and older people already with existing respiratory conditions.
“Every family and every individual is going to be a little different. If you would like to do as much as you can to avoid getting sick when you’re getting together if you want to protect the vulnerable person, whether they’re elderly or an infant, then definitely incorporate some of the lessons from the last few years,” said Wu.
Secure respiratory disease vaccines
All health experts recommend people get vaccinated. This would be a very efficient way to gain immunity from various respiratory diseases. In addition, Covid-19 booster shots from Moderna and Pfizer are readily available in clinics and health establishments. So getting them would help families stay protected. Apart from Covid-19 boosters, experts highly recommend people get flu shots. A recent tally from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows more than 13 million Americans afflicted by the flu.
“The sense is that this year’s vaccine is a pretty good match to the strain circulating. And much like COVID vaccines, flu shots don’t prevent all infections. Still, they can help prevent hospitalizations, deaths, and transmission,” said Dr. Preeti Malani, a specialist from the University of Michigan.
Stay at home
In an interview, the head of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, strongly urged people with symptoms to stay home. However, she also adds that whenever necessary to go out, people must wear their face masks. And although Americans already discarded wearing masks months ago, Walensky said there is a need to revert to the protocols during the pandemic to ensure maximum safety.
“So we have been recommending masking, as I said, in areas with high COVID-19 community levels. And we have certainly always said that masking is a personal choice. You don’t need to wait for CDC’s recommendation to wear a mask. We recommend washing your hands. Stay home when you’re sick. Stay away from people who are sick. Take a COVID test if you have symptoms. Go present to your physician for other tests like RSV or influenza,” Walensky said.
“If you have symptoms, if you are feeling unwell, we are going to ask you to stay home. We are saying we don’t really want people to gather if they’re feeling unwell,” she added.
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Go back to the basics
Walensky said that returning to the basics should help families reduce the risk of contracting respiratory diseases. So this means that people need to adhere to basic protocols imposed during the pandemic period. She also thanked frontliners for continuing to work despite a busy holiday and an increased risk of being exposed to the virus.
“I think it’s really important to sort of go back to the basics of the things that we know that we can do to protect ourselves. So the first thing is, what can you do in advance? And that is to get your COVID-19 vaccine, get your influenza vaccine and to do so now because you’ll be – if you get it now, you’ll be protected by the holidays. And we really want people to gather,” she explained.
“We’ll open the windows for people, increase ventilation if we can. And then, consider wearing a mask if there’s a large gathering. We also – you know, we’ll consider doing testing before we all gather,” she added.
“I want to make sure every family knows this. If you do get those symptoms, call your providers early because there are tests not just for COVID-19 but also for influenza. And if you are diagnosed early, we have antivirals that can be used to shorten your disease course and your disease severity.”
“My heart and respect and gratitude to all of our health care workers who are working hard through this season, not just for respiratory viruses in children but through – across the board.”
Photo Credit: Boston University