OLYMPIA - 'Tis the season for holiday gatherings with friends and family. Unfortunately, 'tis also the season for respiratory viruses, which are more common this time of year as colder temperatures settle in and people spend more time indoors. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) wants everyone to enjoy good health throughout this holiday season.
Washington state is currently seeing typical seasonal increases in respiratory disease activity. Influenza (flu) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are both on the rise. COVID-19 activity is also expected to increase over the next month, as we are seeing nationally. Visit DOH's Respiratory Illness Data Dashboard to track updated disease activity across the state.
"As we celebrate the holiday season amid the challenges of seasonal respiratory viruses, let us prioritize the gift of health," said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Washington State Secretary of Health. "Our agency encourages everyone to celebrate responsibly by practicing preventive measures such as vaccination, wearing masks in crowded settings, and washing your hands frequently. Our collective commitment to safety ensures that the joy of the holidays, not respiratory illnesses, are shared."
Vaccines provide the best protection against serious illness from COVID-19, flu, and RSV, and all three vaccines can be given during the same visit. As it takes up to two weeks for vaccines to be fully effective, get vaccinated now to give your immune system time to build protection and lower the risk of severe illness this holiday season.
COVID-19 and flu vaccines. The 2023-24 COVID-19 and flu vaccines are available for everyone six months and older. Talk to your health care provider or visit Vaccines.gov to find appointments available near you. Ensure optimal protection by getting vaccinated well in advance of your travel, as antibodies can take 7-10 days to develop after vaccination.
RSV vaccine. RSV infection can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. People 32-36 weeks pregnant can receive an RSV vaccine to protect their babies. Adults 60 years and older can also get vaccinated to protect themselves and those around them. Additionally, limited supplies of nirsevimab, a new RSV product for infants and some young children, are available. Speak with your health care provider to see if any of these options are right for you or your family.
Additional safety measures
Wear a mask. Wearing a well-fitted mask helps prevent disease spread. Though masks are no longer required in many places, people may want to wear one for protection in crowded or poorly ventilated settings. Local health jurisdictions, health care facilities, school districts, and individual businesses may choose to require masks; if you are in a setting where COVID-19 safety measures are in place, please follow them.
Ventilate your home. Improving ventilation can help reduce viruses from spreading. Ventilate your residence by getting fresh air into your home, filtering the air that is there, and improving air flow.
Know when to test. Consider taking a COVID-19 test prior to gathering, especially if you're visiting people who are older, immunocompromised, or at risk for severe disease. Order free COVID-19 at-home rapid tests delivered directly to your home.
Wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose, where viruses can enter the body. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not convenient.
Stay home when sick. If you or a member of your family become ill, stay home and use the appropriate level of care. Wear a mask and practice thorough handwashing. For emergencies, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room immediately.
Together, we can create a holiday season filled with warmth, love, and the gift of good health.