How to Stay Safe This Thanksgiving With the Increase in COVID, Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Influenza | WETM

(NEXSTAR) — Once again, Americans will gather with friends and family for Thanksgiving in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, only this year two additional viruses are on many’s minds — RSV and influenza.

So if you’re concerned about inadvertently inviting others to your super distributor event, don’t forget the following precautions, say the experts.

Masks, vaccines and tests

“COVID, influenza, bacteria and other viruses have not left us, so before you plan to meet Thanksgiving, make sure you are immunized and all your friends and family who could be immunized are as well,” advised Neha Vyas, MD, a family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic.

Experts say Thanksgiving is only days away, but it’s never too late.

“I realize a lot of people think it’s too late to get vaccinated before Thanksgiving because vaccines need time to be effective,” Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Monto Davis told the Los Angeles Times. “While protection builds up over one to two weeks after you get vaccinated, that doesn’t mean you won’t have any protection up until this point. You still have some protection, and you will be prepared for future events.”

Getting tested for COVID-19 close to the time of the event is another precaution the host and guests can take.

Wearing a mask is also still an effective way to reduce transmission of droplets that carry viruses like RSV and influenza, so if you’re worried about too many people around, or want to help protect the very young or immunocompromised, you may want to wear a face covering while not eating. .

Throwing the party

Ventilation can be difficult in colder parts of the United States, but increasing air flow and lounging outside whenever possible will reduce the risk of virus transmission.

In Minnesota, for example, where the high temperature on Thanksgiving Day is about 34 degrees, an outside party might not be practical. However, experts say a good quality air filter and cracking windows and doors can help.

Dr. Vyas also suggested making hand sanitizer readily available and providing several towels in the bathroom so that guests do not have to use the same sanitizer.

the meal

As a host, another strategy to consider is to create space between place settings and prevent everyone from being crowded into the same room.

While a buffet-style setup is standard for many large gatherings, you may want to change it up to prevent people from touching the same serving utensils. One way to do this is to prepare meals.

For hosts and guests alike, regular hand washing is more important than ever this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that while coronavirus can largely be transmitted through the air, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), for example, can live for many hours on hard surfaces.

Finally, the Vyas remind the hosts not to neglect cooking the food properly either – wash produce thoroughly, heat dishes to the right temperature and make sure leftovers are properly stored.

More cause for concern this year

As Americans approach the holiday season, the rapidly escalating flu season is straining hospitals already overwhelmed with patients with other respiratory illnesses.

The government reported Friday that more than half of states have high or very high levels of influenza, which are unusually high for the season early. Most of these 27 states are located in the South and Southwest but include a growing number in the Northeast, Midwest, and West.

This is happening as children’s hospitals are already dealing with a wave of illness caused by RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of cold-like symptoms that can be dangerous for infants and the elderly. And COVID-19 continues to contribute to more than 3,000 hospitalizations per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Atlanta, Dr. Mark Griffiths describes the mixture as “viral jambalaya.” He said children’s hospitals in his area have at least 30% more patients than normal at this time of year, with many patients having to wait in emergency rooms for beds to open.

“COVID was the ultimate bully, he told parents. He’s been bullying every other virus for two years,” said Griffiths, MD, emergency medical director for Children’s Health Care at a downtown Atlanta hospital.

With COVID-19 rates declining, “they’re coming back in full force,” he said.

Winter flu season usually doesn’t last until December or January. CDC officials say hospitalization rates for the flu have not been this high since the 2009 swine flu pandemic. The agency said the rates are highest among those 65 and older and children under five.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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