10/03/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/03/2023 15:25
Respiratory disease season has arrived, and public health officials are urging Idahoans to protect themselves and their loved ones.
Seasonal influenza (flu) virus, the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are all expected to be part of the respiratory disease season this fall and winter.
As people move indoors during colder months, they spend more time in close contact with others, and the chances of spreading germs increases. While most people who catch a respiratory virus will recover after a short illness, some can get sick enough to be hospitalized.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of hospitalizations for respiratory diseases this season could be similar to last year for all three viruses. The great news is that there are vaccines that protect from flu, RSV, and SARS-CoV-2.
The updated COVID-19 vaccine is now available for everyone 6 months and older. The updated vaccine protects against the variant of the virus causing infections right now. Vaccination not only remains the best way to protect from severe COVID illness, it also reduces the chance of getting long COVID, which affects some people after the initial infection and can last for weeks or months.
To protect against the flu, everyone 6 months of age or older should get the flu vaccine before the season starts, usually before November. This year's flu vaccines will protect against the influenza viruses expected to be circulating during the upcoming flu season.
High dose flu vaccines are available for people 65 years of age and older. The higher dose of ingredients in these vaccines gives older adults a better immune response and better protection against the flu. Getting the flu vaccine not only protects individuals who get it but can reduce spread to others.
For the first time, vaccines against RSV are available. RSV causes mild cold symptoms in most people but can lead to hospitalization and even death in older people and babies. People 60 years and older may receive a single dose of RSV vaccine and should talk with their healthcare provider about whether they should get it. Pregnant people are recommended to receive one dose of RSV vaccine as early as 32 weeks and as late as 36 weeks of pregnancy to protect their newborn infants from RSV.
A new immunization against RSV (nirsevimab) is also available for babies, who can become very ill from RSV. One dose of nirsevimab is recommended for infants younger than 8 months born before or during the RSV season. For children 8 to 19 months who are at increased risk of severe illness, nirsevimab or palivizumab (a similar monoclonal product) might be recommended. Parents should discuss using these products with their child's healthcare provider.
Additional ways to protect yourself and others
In addition to getting vaccinated, everyone can reduce the risk of getting sick from respiratory viruses or spreading them by washing their hands, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when sick, practicing physical distancing, and wearing masks when disease activity is high in a community.
The CDC has published guidance for the respiratory season, a respiratory season outlook, and publishes weekly respiratory disease season updates. Follow the situation in Idaho on the Influenza, RSV, and COVID-19 dashboards.
Dr. Kathryn Turner is deputy state epidemiologist in the Division of Public Health.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.
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