A triple threat of serious viruses could impact the upcoming holiday season, as the flu, Covid-19, and the respiratory virus ‘RSV’ can spread easily in close contact. Doctors say Influenza and RSV season have started earlier this year, and could last longer than usual. University of Vermont Medical Center Pediatric Physician Dr. Rebecca Bell notes the region is having the busiest RSV season its ever had.
After two holiday seasons impacted by Covid-19, families may be eager to get together this year. But, doctors warn: don’t let your guard down, there are still viruses out there. Covid-19 has been hanging around, it’s flu season, and there’s particular concern about RSV.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says, “if there’s one thing that Vermonters can do for themselves in preparation for holiday gatherings and keeping their families and friends safe, it is getting vaccinated.”
He adds, based on trends from the southern hemisphere, flu season could be particularly bad. According to his data, only 28% of Vermonters have received their flu shot so far. He says this specific shot is effective, and can be safely taken with the news bivalent Covid-19 booster.
“If you want to, you can get both vaccines at the same time,” he says. “It’s particularly important that this year, this is the timing of when you should get both vaccines, because the flu season promises to be an earlier season.”
RSV levels have been rising nation-wide. Dr. Bell says for most, RSV shows up as a mild cold. But for babies and people with underlying lung and heart conditions, the virus can be serious. “It’s very common for parents to feel pressured to bring their newborns to gatherings and to pass them around and to let people hold them and kiss them,” she says. “But that’s something that we’re recommending that families not do, because that’s exactly how RSV and Influenza can spread.”
RSV spreads through contact with infected surfaces and close-contact droplets. Dr. Bell says Vermont hospitals do have the resources to accommodate all RSV patients, but nursing units are still very busy. There’s still no RSV vaccine or special treatment yet.
“RSV is very hard to predict because we didn’t see a lot of it during the pandemic, so more children are having their first infection now,” Dr. Bell noted.
To prevent all three viruses, Dr. Bell and Dr. Levine suggest keeping up with hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, to clean surfaces, mask up, and get vaccinated against Covid-19 and the flu. Dr. Bell adds, parents can treat their child’s RSV at home with age-appropriate medicines, but should seek medical attention if they’re concerned about dehydration or breathing.