As levels of circulating respiratory viruses rise and people spend more time indoors during the holiday season, Bay Area health officials are calling for action to stay healthy during the holidays.
?Keeping up to date with COVID-19, flu and RSV vaccines is the most effective protection tool. “Stay home if you are not feeling well, consider getting tested before meetings and seek immediate treatment if necessary,” said Dr. Kismet Baldwin-Santana, an official at the San Mateo County Health Department.
Baldwin-Santana, along with health officials throughout the Bay Area, recommend the following actions:
Get vaccinated against COVID-19, flu and RSV
Staying up to date with vaccinations is the best way to protect yourself against severe illness from COVID-19, influenza, and RSV. These viruses pose the greatest risk to infants, older adults, and people with certain health conditions, such as chronic heart, lung, kidney, or liver diseases or weakened immune systems.
Receiving recommended vaccines during pregnancy protects pregnant women and their babies.
One dose of this year's updated COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, at least two months after the last dose, as well as children 6 months to 4 years and immunocompromised people who have never have been vaccinated receive additional doses.
Everyone 6 months and older should receive the annual flu vaccine. Children 8 years old and younger need 2 doses the first year they receive the flu vaccine.?
Adults age 60 and older can get the RSV vaccine to prevent serious illness. Pregnant women should also receive the RSV vaccine between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy to protect their newborn. RSV vaccines are available at many pharmacies and health care providers.
COVID-19, flu, and RSV vaccines can be given at the same time.
People without insurance or whose insurance does not cover the cost of vaccines can get the updated COVID-19 vaccine for free through the Bridge Access Program. Visit vaccines.gov to find a location.
Stay home if you are sick
If you feel sick, the best way to avoid spreading the disease is to stay home as much as you can until you have recovered, no matter what virus you have.
People who need urgent or emergency medical care, including testing or treatment, should not hesitate to seek it.
Get tested if you feel sick
Reduce your chances of infecting someone else with COVID-19 by finding out if you have the virus. Get tested right away if you have symptoms of COVID-19 so you can receive treatment if the result is positive. Remember, symptoms may even be mild.
Be sure to stock up on home testing kits. This fall, each household can receive up to eight free COVID tests from the US government.
If you test positive for COVID-19, treatment is available. Medications for the disease help prevent hospitalization and are available to most adults and some adolescents even with mild symptoms.
COVID-19 treatment works best when started immediately after symptoms begin and within five days of symptom onset.
Talk to your healthcare provider about treatment options or visit covid19.ca.gov/treatment.
If you test positive for the flu, treatment is available for those at high risk for severe illness.
Wear a mask in indoor public places and improve ventilation
For added protection, consider wearing a mask in indoor public settings, especially if you are at higher risk for severe illness (over 65 years of age and/or people with certain health conditions). Wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask, such as a KF94, KN95, or N95, can prevent infection from COVID-19, flu, RSV, and other respiratory viruses.
Wearing a mask can reduce your risk of getting sick and missing work, school, and holiday events.
Masks also reduce the chance of transmitting an infection if you are already sick, even if your symptoms are mild. This helps protect the people around you, especially those at higher risk of serious illness.
Improve indoor ventilation by turning on HVAC systems, filtering the air with a portable HEPA filter (the same type many use for wildfire smoke), pointing fans at open windows, or opening doors and windows when possible. All of these can help viruses spread indoors.
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