The winter holidays are quickly approaching, which means that airports and trips to see loved ones will be jam-packed. Nonetheless, respiratory illnesses like the flu and respiratory syncytial virus are sending more people to the hospital this year, and the coronavirus threat that has kept many people at home for the past two holidays is still very much present.
Abinash Virk, an infectious-disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, has stated, "Covid is still floating around, RSV is floating around, influenza is increasing." "All three of them are really nasty, especially in frail or immune-compromised people." ”
The senior medical director of infection prevention at UCHealth in Colorado, Michelle Barron, said that norovirus outbreaks are common during this time of year.
"The 'tripledemic' has been in the news," the author writes, "with covid, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common virus that typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms." When asked if she was sick, she responded, "No, this is just the season of grossness."
Masks are optional on flights and other modes of transportation this holiday season, unlike last year. However, visitors to elderly relatives, newborn infants, or other susceptible loved ones may wish to take additional measures to prevent the spread of illness during their trip. Medical professionals advise taking extra care to safeguard the health of those with whom you plan to spend time.
According to Barron, "people want to enjoy themselves, people want to gather, and they want to travel, and they should." However, "You definitely don't want to get sick while on vacation." ”
A new generation of omicron-targeted boosters is now available for infants 6 months and up. Adolescents and preteens who have already received the Moderna primary series vaccine can get a Moderna booster shot two months after their last dose of the primary series. The revised vaccine will be given as the third dose in the Pfizer primary series to children aged 6 months to 4 years. Pfizer has yet to release a booster shot for those who have already received all three primary doses.
Maintaining a full series of age-appropriate coronavirus vaccinations is strongly encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Everyone 6 months and older can get a flu shot.
According to Kris Bryant, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Infectious Diseases, "if people have not had a flu vaccine, now is the time to get one."
However, there is currently no vaccine available to protect against RSV, despite the fact that it can have devastating effects on infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.
According to Virk, she has warned her own family to take extra precautions one week before a trip to see the grandparents. This includes avoiding activities that could put you in harm's way, such as eating at indoor restaurants, not wearing a mask in public, or congregating in large groups of people inside.
For Barron, a week is "probably really, really cautious." ”
"About three days is when it's going to hit you," she said. "Most things you worry about, especially right now."
Masks are generally not required by law anywhere these days. However, medical professionals agree that it's a smart move if you want to stay healthy and not pass diseases on to others.
According to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, "wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask to help prevent the spread of respiratory illness" was a recommendation made earlier this month. According to her, this is especially crucial in highly covid-19-affected communities, on public transportation, and at airports.
Bryant admitted that wearing a mask is no longer required; she opted not to wear one when she went to see her newborn grandchild after a long day at the office and a meeting.
People can choose to wear a mask to protect themselves and others in their family who may be vulnerable if they are going into crowded environments where they don't always have the choice to step away from somebody who is coughing, she said.
If Virk could not find a way to escape the crowds, she would "definitely" put on a mask, she said.
Doctor of infectious diseases at Yale University, Jessica Tuan, says that high-quality masks like the N95 or KN95 recommended for coronavirus protection "will also protect against influenza and RSV as well."
There's no need to feel weird about wearing a mask, she reassured us.
After the initial days of the pandemic, when you were probably diligent about washing your hands after using the restroom and before eating, you may have slacked off after hearing that the coronavirus is spread primarily through small particles or droplets.
However, experts stress the importance of maintaining proper hand hygiene, particularly in light of the widespread circulation of multiple viruses. It's important to wash for "at least 20 seconds," Tuan stressed.
Bryant emphasized the importance of hand hygiene, saying, "Hand-washing is very important, and I know we've heard a lot about that during the pandemic." But RSV is found in mucus secretions, Nasal discharges can colonize any surface they touch. That's a good way to disperse them. ”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that RSV can live "for many hours" on hard surfaces but only "for a few hours" on soft surfaces like hands.
Barron said that people should make handwashing a priority all year round, not just during flu season, because it protects against "dirt and other things that are easily communicable." ”
She said, "It's really gross if you thought about all the stuff that touches seats and handles and doorknobs; it's a huge way to transmit all sorts of things."
Virk suggests coronavirus testing three days before departure and again on the day of travel. The FDA recommends serial testing ("to reduce the risk an infection may be missed") with home antigen tests.
While Barron acknowledges that home tests may become more accurate with repeated use, he cautions that they should not be relied upon as a reliable means of diagnosis.
There is no such thing as a perfect test," she said.
Virk advised people to get tested if they were experiencing any symptoms.
If you test positive for the coronavirus, the CDC recommends staying home for at least five days and remaining isolated. Isolation can be lifted after day 5 if there are no symptoms or if they are improving. Isolation should be continued through Day 10 for those with a moderate or severe illness.
Those who test positive have been advised to keep their masks on until day 10. They should also stay away from people who are more likely to develop severe symptoms from the virus until after day 11.
Experts say it's important to know if you have the flu or RSV if you get sick, but there is no quick home test for either.
To paraphrase what Virk said, "especially if someone is immune-compromised and they know it's influenza or they know it's covid, there are treatments."
According to Bryant, it may have been common for someone with mild cold symptoms to show up to a gathering before the pandemic and make everyone sick.
"We learned not to do that," she emphasized. Sick people, even those with a mild cold, should stay away from infants. ”
Tuan advised people to think twice before visiting relatives who are mildly to severely immunocompromised, or who are very young and may not have developed fully functional immune systems.
A person with a compromised immune system should only travel when absolutely necessary, as she put it.
Barron concurred that a sick person should stay home from social events. If they can't avoid it, they should cover their faces, isolate themselves, or spend as much time as possible outdoors.
Have a contingency plan in place in case you end up getting sick, she advised.
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