Flu season hasn’t been quite the same since the COVID-19 pandemic began. As both COVID-19 and seasonal flu have circulated each fall and winter for the past few years, the risks to our respiratory health and the importance of vaccinations have greatly increased.
This flu season, however, a third respiratory virus has resurfaced and added yet another public health risk – respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. With three viruses circulating at the same time this flu season to create a triple threat to our respiratory health, it’s important to understand how you can protect yourself.
Who Is Most at Risk?
While these viruses can infect people of any age, young children and the elderly are at higher risk for complications and severe illness. This is especially true if they already have a pre-existing condition, such as lung disease, heart disease, or a weakened immune system. For RSV in particular, young children are the most likely to become infected, while adults 60 years and older are at higher risk for severe symptoms and complications.
How To Protect Yourself
Because it’s possible to become infected with multiple viruses at the same time, the best way to protect your health this fall and winter is through vaccination. Vaccines are available for all three viruses, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends the RSV vaccine for adults 60 years and older. It’s also important to remember that a vaccine for one virus does not protect you against another – all three vaccines serve a distinct purpose in protecting your health.
Besides vaccination, there are also simple precautions you can take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, flu, and RSV, including:
- Wear a mask if you have symptoms or concerns about being in public spaces.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces in your home.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as cough, sore throat, or fever, schedule an appointment with your health care provider as soon as possible. And if you’re having trouble breathing, call 911 immediately.