Public health officials warn of possible respiratory virus increases after the holidays. Experts in infectious diseases and public health are becoming increasingly worried that the United States will see an increase in respiratory infections in January.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Monday that it is “highly likely” that respiratory viruses will spread even more after holiday gatherings and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The public has forgotten chiefly about Covid-19 and the resulting need for vaccination against the highly contagious Covid viruses. They haven’t paid any mind to influenza. “They’re not concealing their identities with masks,” Schaffner declared. And if you’re in close quarters with other people, the flu, Covid, and RSV all have a better chance of spreading from one to the other. The number of cases of these viruses is likely to increase after the holidays.
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Concurrently, a nationwide tidal wave of airline cancellations has left many holiday travelers stranded at airports with their families.
If it occurs, Schaffner added that his granddaughter had four flights canceled over the holidays because of the flu. “People are together for extended periods, and they’re not wearing masks, and they’re weary, tired, and agitated,” he said. He suggests using a mask in the terminal and during flight.
Schaffner remarked that the field of infectious illnesses and public health would advise that masks be used because they are not foolproof and provide an extra layer of protection.
In an email on Monday, Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, warned of a probable increase in respiratory diseases following the winter holidays, similar to what was seen after Thanksgiving.
The number of reported cases of COVID “increased by approximately 58% after the Thanksgiving holiday period and continued to rise through the beginning of the Christmas holiday on December 21,” Freeman wrote. “During that same period, there was a roughly 65% increase in deaths due to COVID.”
Over a third of all flu-related hospitalizations and fatalities this season has been reported in the first week of data after Thanksgiving. Cases have also spiked nearly as much.
According to data released Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal flu activity is still high but decreasing in most countries. The climax of the flu season may not have arrived yet, despite the improvements.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 18 million people have been infected with the flu this season, leading to 190,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 fatalities.
Regarding the current situation of Covid-19, growth has been moderate. Although the national rate of hospitalizations is higher than before, it is still nowhere near as high as it was during previous spikes. Inpatient admissions have increased by over 50% in the last month. The peak number of Delta-related elder hospitalizations is rapidly approaching.
According to Freeman, reports will likely show an increase in Covid-19 cases and deaths after the winter holidays. This is likely due to increased cross-country travel, large family gatherings, fewer people being up to date on their Covid-19 vaccinations and flu shots, and fewer people following mitigation measures, such as masking and social distancing.
Air traffic is also at pre-pandemic levels, and passengers are no longer required to wear masks during flights or in transit through airports. In these two locations, infectious diseases can spread rapidly. Freeman added, “The same goes for busing. Thankfully, “we are seeing less RSV in children from our high peaks earlier in December,” which means that respiratory disease is stabilizing and becoming less of a threat from COVID, the flu, and RSV.
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, has warned of a potential increase in respiratory viruses in the coming weeks, not just influenza, Covid-19, and RSV.
We’re concentrating on those three for the time being, but others are out there, such as the common cold, as Benjamin pointed out.
“We should expect more respiratory infections,” he added generally. As the author puts it, “the greatest approach to lower your risk is, of course, to get fully vaccinated for those diseases for which we have a vaccine, so influenza and Covid, with the new bivalent version, are the two most crucial right now.”
Benjamin noted that it is still crucial to practice regular hand washing, use a face mask while traveling for the holidays, and rest at home when ill.