What is a 'Tripledemic'? And Will it Affect Your Holiday?Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Many of us are looking forward to gathering with friends and family during this holiday season, especially after Hurricane Ian. But when planning get-togethers, we should take precautions due to a confluence of viruses currently circulating in the U.S.
According to public health officials, we’re facing a “tripledemic” of viruses: influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19.
Lee Health Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Stephanie Stovall, Chief Clinical Officer of Quality/Safety and Hospital-Based Care, offers some tips on how to stay safe during this year’s festivities amid this triple threat of viruses.
Lee Health supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance for safer ways to celebrate the holidays and travel safely, Dr. Stovall says. As such, she recommends you:
- Stay up to date with COVID-19 and influenza vaccines.
- Get tested if you have symptoms.
- Wear a mask if you have symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19.
- Wear a mask on public transportation.
- You may choose to wear a mask at any time as an additional precaution to protect yourself and others.
Although RSV has no vaccine, Dr. Stovall says you and your family should practice the preventive health precautions recommended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This includes limiting contact with people, keeping hands and surfaces clean, and wearing face masks when around other people or indoors for extended periods,” Dr. Stovall says. “If you have elderly or immunocompromised members in your family, consider taking extra precautions when getting together.”
Dr. Stovall suggests creating a game plan before meeting for the event. “Make sure everyone is up-to-date on their vaccinations and consider other precautions such as limiting the number of people you invite, distancing and eating outside (if the weather permits). These precautions can help protect not only you but those around you who may not be eligible for vaccination,” she says.
“Everyone should assess how they are feeling on the days leading up to and on the day of the event. If you’re experiencing congestion, sore throat, fatigue, muscle pain, headache or any other flu or COVID-19 symptoms, you should not attend the event. If you feel even the slightest bit sick, stay home.”
If you decide to attend the gathering:
- Get vaccinated before you go. The best defense against the flu and COVID-19 is vaccination. Lee Health offers both. “If you haven’t yet received your vaccine for either, or if you’re eligible for a COVID-19 booster and haven’t gotten it yet, you should do so as soon as possible,” Dr. Stovall advises. “It takes about two weeks for a good antibody response to vaccines, so try to get them a couple of weeks before your anticipated exposures for the best outcome.”
- Wash your hands often while you’re there—especially if you’re serving food or if food is served communally.
- Avoid touching or kissing the faces and hands of young children and infants. “Young children are prone to become very ill if they get a respiratory viral infection,” Dr. Stovall says. “They may not be old enough for vaccine protection yet.”
If you’re traveling to celebrate in person, Dr. Stovall suggests checking travel restrictions or requirements before leaving home. Local travel restrictions can change during your travel, altering your trip. You never know what might come up when you’re away from home, including getting ill and requiring care. So, it’s important to be prepared and have a plan.
Dr. Stovall recommends you:
- Get up to date with your COVID-19 and influenza vaccines before you travel.
- Consider getting tested before travel.
- Follow the CDC’s recommendations for wearing masks in travel and public transportation settings.
- Get tested after travel if your travel involves situations with greater risk of exposure, such as being in crowded places while not wearing a high-quality mask or respirator.
- Check your destination’s COVID-19 Community Level before traveling. State, tribal, local, and territorial governments may have travel restrictions in place.
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