With the holiday season just around the corner, health experts are issuing warnings about a potential surge in respiratory illnesses, including RSV, COVID-19, and the flu. Dr. Celine Gounder, a medical contributor for CBS News and editor-at-large for public health at KFF, sat down with “CBS Mornings” to provide insights on how to stay healthy during the holidays. Here are key points from her discussion:
1. Vaccination is Crucial:
- It’s not too late to get vaccinated for the flu or COVID-19 before the holiday season. Gounder emphasizes the importance of getting vaccinated to protect oneself and others.
- For those eligible, an RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) shot is recommended. High-risk groups for RSV include people over 60 and babies.
2. Available Tools for RSV:
- Gounder highlights three tools available for dealing with RSV:
- A monoclonal antibody for infants under 6 months.
- Another monoclonal antibody for infants aged 8-19 months.
- An RSV vaccine, which can be administered to pregnant individuals between 32 to 36 weeks of pregnancy and elderly individuals. Eligible individuals are encouraged to get vaccinated for RSV for the season.
3. Monitoring Respiratory Illnesses:
- RSV may initially present as a common cold with symptoms such as sniffles and a cough. However, it can progress to affect the lungs and lead to pneumonia.
- Gounder advises monitoring young children for severe signs of illness, including high temperatures, difficulty breathing, or blue coloring under their nails or on their lips.
4. Improve Indoor Air Ventilation:
- To reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses indoors, consider improving air ventilation. This can be achieved by opening doors and windows when feasible or using air filtration units.
5. Wearing Masks:
- Wearing masks in public settings, especially in crowded places or on public transit, can help prevent illness transmission.
6. Testing and Isolation:
- If you suspect you may be sick, consider taking advantage of free COVID-19 tests offered by the U.S. government. Ordering and using these tests can help determine if you have COVID-19 or another respiratory illness.
- If you test positive for a respiratory illness, wearing a mask in public can prevent the spread of the illness to others.
The holiday season is a time for celebration, but it’s essential to take precautions to ensure the health and safety of yourself and those around you. Vaccination, preventive measures, and monitoring for signs of illness can contribute to a healthier and safer holiday season.