With covid, influenza and RSV still circulating, should we wear masks during large holiday gatherings?

With covid, influenza and RSV still circulating, should we wear masks during large holiday gatherings?

alslitz@charlotteobserver.com

With RSV, flu and covid floating around, should we go back to wearing masks at large gatherings during the holidays, or are we safe to forgo face coverings if we get vaccinated?

The News and Observer spoke to him. Dr. David Weber, Associate Chief Medical Officer at UNC Medical Center and the Medical Director of the UNC Division of Infection Prevention, to learn more about viruses this season.

Should we wear masks at holiday gatherings this year?

Especially vulnerable individuals – such as immunocompromised, organ transplant recipients, cancer patients, elderly individuals – should be. Consider wearing a mask Dr. Weber said when gathering outside the typical indoor bubble.

covid, rsv and flu are all. Spot-infectious diseases through local transmission. They thrive in low temperatures and low humidity – our current winter environment.

Most hand sanitizers and household cleaning products kill all three bacteria. Don’t take good hand washing and hygiene habits for granted this holiday season, says Dr. Weber.

“You can wear a mask while traveling, but the biggest risk of catching and spreading these diseases is not yours. It all depends on what you do once you get where you need to go,” he said. “Spending time in large crowds, eating and socializing in close quarters. This is what puts you in the greatest danger.”

Is this year’s biggest threat: Covid, RSV or the flu?

“Covid is the biggest threat right now,” Dr. Weber said.

RSV, or The same virus of the respiratory system, planted in September and October, but lighter. The peak of the flu was from October to the end of November, and it also cooled.

RSV and influenza are on the way down, while Covid is making its way up, he said.

“Recent data show that test positivity has increased by 10%, hospitalization by 15% and death by 60%,” said Dr. Weber. We lose 100 people a day to car crashes and gun violence and 400 people a day to covid. That’s twice as much as the two leading causes of death combined.

Additionally, new variants of Covid are making some treatments that worked well in the past, such as monoclonal antibodies, obsolete.

Antiviral drugs work, and the vaccine is still very effective in preventing hospitalization and death, but it is not strong with the introduction of these new variants, he said.

20200324_Duke_Covid_n95Cleaning_02.jpg
In an effort to preserve and reuse N95 masks, Duke Occupational and Environmental Safety Officer Andrea Vogel uploaded used masks in March 2020. Shawn Rocco / Duke Health

How do you know if you have Covid, RSV or the flu?

Because the symptoms are so similar between these three diseases, you can only know for sure by examining them.

UNC has 4-plex tests – which check for all three diseases at once – to determine which treatment you need.

Symptoms usually start with a runny nose or throat, followed by congestion, coughing and sneezing. All three can cause pneumonia, and other common problems – especially in children – can include nausea, vomiting, headaches and diarrhea.

More than one illness (or all three) may be present at the same time.

Treatments: Covid and flu have approved vaccines, but RSV does not. But at-risk infants can be given long-acting monoclonal antibodies to protect against RSV. Influenza therapy can be given to babies 14 days and older, and COVID therapy can be given to babies 28 days and older.

What is RSV?

RSV (or The same virus of the respiratory system) is a common virus that usually grows every winter, although the peak in our region comes a few months earlier.

Anyone can contract RSV and become ill, but it is especially problematic for infants and the elderly. Most of those infected will recover within a week.

RSV is spread by local droplets: “If you rub your nose and then touch something in the house, then touch the same place and rub my nose, the chances of picking up RSV are high,” he said.

RSV is most commonly spread by coughing and sneezing.

There is no vaccine to prevent RSV, but there are antibody treatments (especially effective for young children) if it occurs.

The rate of RSV infection and death is similar to that of the flu, so it is a common disease that should be taken seriously, Dr. Weber said.

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This story was originally published December 20, 2022 2:02 pm.

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Kimberly Cataudella (she/her) is a service journalism reporter for The News and Observer.



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