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How to stay safe this Thanksgiving as ‘triple cases’ of COVID, RSV and flu rise

(NEXSTAR) – Americans will once again gather with friends and family for Thanksgiving in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, only this year with two more viruses on the minds of many – RSV and the flu.

So if you’re feeling anxious about inadvertently inviting others to a super-spreading event, keep the following precautions in mind, experts say.

Masks, vaccines and tests

“Covid, the flu, and other bacteria and viruses have not left us, so before you plan your Thanksgiving get-together, make sure you’re vaccinated and that all your friends and family who can be vaccinated are also vaccinated,” advised Neha Vyas, MD of Medical Sciences, a family medicine physician at the Cleveland Clinic.

Thanksgiving is just days away, but it’s not too late, experts say.

“I understand that many people think it’s too late to get vaccinated before Thanksgiving because vaccines take time to work,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles County Health Officer. told Los Angeles Times. “Although protection increases one to two weeks after vaccination, it does not mean that you will have zero protection until then. You still have some protection and you will be prepared for future events.’

Another precaution that the host and guests can take is to get tested for COVID-19 right before the event.

Wearing a mask is still the same effective way to reduce the transmission of droplets that carry viruses such as RSV and influenza, so if you are concerned about being around large numbers of people, or want to help protect very young or immunocompromised children, you can wear a face mask when you are not eating.

Party setup

Ventilation can be difficult in cold regions of the US, but increasing airflow and staying outside whenever possible will reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

For example, in Minnesota, where the temperature is around 34 degrees on Thanksgiving, an outdoor party may not be practical. However, a quality air filter and breaking windows and doors can help, experts say.

Dr. Vyas also suggested having hand sanitizer and multiple towels in the bathroom so guests don’t have to use the same one.


As a host, another strategy to consider is to create space between seats so that everyone is not crammed into the same room.

While a buffet setting is standard for many large gatherings, you can change it up so that people don’t touch the same dishes. One way to do this is to arrange food on plates.

For hosts and guests, regular hand washing is more important than ever this year. As long as COVID can are largely airborneRSV, for example, can live for many hours on hard surfaces, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Finally, Vyas reminds the owners not to neglect the proper preparation of food either – wash the food thoroughly, heat the dishes to the right temperature and make sure that the leftovers are stored properly.

More cause for concern this year

As Americans approach the holiday season, the rapidly intensifying flu season is straining hospitals already overwhelmed by patients with other respiratory infections.

More than half of the states have high or very high rates of influenza, unusually high for this early in the season reports the government Friday. These 27 states are mostly in the South and Southwest, but there are growing numbers in the Northeast, Midwest, and West.

It comes as children’s hospitals are already seeing a surge in illnesses caused by RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, a common cause of cold-like symptoms that can be serious in infants and the elderly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 continues to contribute to more than 3,000 hospitalizations each day.

In Atlanta, Dr. Mark Griffiths describes the concoction as “viral jambalaya.” He said children’s hospitals in his area have at least 30% more patients than usual for this time of year, and many patients have to wait in emergency rooms for beds to open up.

“I tell parents that COVID has been the ultimate bully. It bullied every other virus for two years,” said Griffiths, director of emergency medicine at Children’s Hospital in Downtown Atlanta.

When the level of COVID-19 declines, “they come back in full force,” he said

The winter flu season usually doesn’t start until December or January. The rate of hospitalizations due to the flu has not been this high since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, CDC officials say. The highest rates are among people age 65 and older and children under the age of 5, the agency said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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