Dr. Kose On Flu, COVID and RSV

(From Dr. Bill Kose with Blanchard Valley Health System)

As the days get shorter and cooler, community members should be aware that multiple infectious diseases will be more prevalent, including COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). If you are someone who always gets vaccinated, here’s a reminder that this is the time of year to do so. And, if you aren’t, now could be a great time to start.

This year, for the first time, it’s recommended that adults 60 and older get vaccinated against RSV.

This illness is known to be more severe in infants and young children. But recent testing has found that the number of infections among adults is higher than previously believed, and RSV can cause more significant illness among older adults – even death.

So, adults 60 and older are encouraged to get an RSV vaccine. Babies can also get this vaccine.

While the peak of flu season isn’t expected until winter, getting your flu shot now will help protect you later in the season. It’s best to be prepared.

Sometimes, you will hear someone say they have chosen not to get a flu shot because, in the past, they or a loved one got the shot, and it “gave them the flu.” But this means that, most likely, the person got another respiratory illness shortly after receiving the vaccine. It is impossible to get the flu from the flu shot. The shot is made from an inactivated virus, not a live one.

The CDC recently approved a new set of COVID-19 boosters. Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are available.

Medical professionals know much more now about how to treat COVID-19 than we once did, and infections tend to be milder. But older people and immunocompromised people can still get very sick. And people are still developing long COVID. When in doubt, be cautious, especially if you or a family member could be at greater risk than the general population.

We have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases at BVHS. The numbers are not enormous, but they are increasing.

The good news is that the new variants do not appear to be more lethal than previous ones. And the new vaccines are believed to protect against them reasonably well.

As of this week, every U.S. household can once again order four free at-home COVID-19 tests from the federal government. Go to https://www.covid.gov/tests to order these tests. Additionally, if you have older at-home COVID-19 tests available, look up the brand on fda.gov. Recently, it was announced that some of these kits have a longer shelf life than had been assumed, and their expiration date has been extended.

If you test positive for COVID-19, the CDC recommends isolating yourself at home for five days, using a separate bedroom and dishes from other household members when

possible. After five days, if you have no fever and few other symptoms, you can end isolation but should wear a mask for another five days.

Getting the vaccines you need is one way to take care of yourself. Spending more time outdoors when the weather allows and ensuring rooms are adequately ventilated also helps reduce the risk of infections spreading. We also always want to remind people to wash their hands and to take other steps to keep themselves healthy, like getting enough exercise.

Contact your primary care provider if you have any questions about what vaccines you need. Vaccines will also be available through Hancock Public Health.

William Kose, MD, JD Vice President of Special Projects, Blanchard Valley Health System