BUNCOMBE COUNTY, NC – December 27, 2023 – COVID-19 and other respiratory viral infections like influenza (the flu) and RSV can spread through holiday gatherings and travel. Prior to the COVID pandemic, these other diseases have been around. However, COVID has made us aware that we can take steps to reduce spreading these respiratory viruses when getting together during the holidays. Therefore, persons who are more susceptible to getting sick like older adults and the immunocompromised have become more cautious.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that hospital admissions due to COVID-19 illness for the week ending December 16th are low in 95 of 100 counties in North Carolina, including Buncombe County, and about 2 thirds of the counties in the U.S. However, there is a surge of respiratory disease like the flu and RSV as people spend more time indoors during the winter months and due to an increase in indoor gatherings and travel during the holidays.
The CDC reports that the weekly flu surveillance report for the week ending on December 16th indicate that levels are at high and very high levels for every southern state from California to the Southeast including North Carolina.
For the week ending on December 16th, the CDC reports the 3-week average for the percent positivity for RSV PCR tests has climbed to about 12% since November 11th.
Here’s some general recommendations:
- People who are positive for COVID-19 or do not feel well should stay home
- Eligible persons should consider getting the updated COVID shot, the annual flu shot and the new RSV vaccine 1-2 weeks before getting together. Vaccination can reduce the risk of developing severe illness and becoming hospitalized.
- Wash hands frequently
- Improve ventilation. Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoors; small gatherings are safer than large; and indoor gatherings are safer in larger spaces with the windows and doors open to allow fresh air to circulate
If people are at high risk to get sick:
- Consider wearing a high-quality medical mask in indoor public spaces and when on public transportation
Be extra protective if you are having guests from out of town. Here’s some advice:
- Test for COVID before attending gatherings outside the house with at-risk people
- Don’t go to indoor gatherings about a week prior to arrival
- Have a plan in place for access to COVID-19 medicine if needed
If you are starting to feel sick with a cough, sore throat or fever, Dr. Mandy Cohen, the CDC director, gave her recommendations to Yahoo Life: get tested, get treatment, and stay home
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, tells USA Today.com that COVID-19 cases should increase over the winter as they have the past 3 years. The risk of transmission can also increase during the upcoming holiday season when many people get together indoors.
New COVID-19 variants continue to infect people and will still be around in 2024. However, more and more Americans have developed some immunity from vaccination and previous infection. Therefore, we have to protect at-risk groups who remain susceptible to getting severely ill.
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Contact: Dr. Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, firstname.lastname@example.org