This article appeared on Manistee News Advocate. Read more here.
The leaves are changed, the chill is in the air, days are shorter and we all know what comes next — time to break out the winter coats and wax the skis.
As we head toward Thanksgiving and all the family gatherings and parties at the end of the year, it is important to make sure you and your family are protected from the viruses that typically spread when we all spend more time indoors.
Already we are seeing the COVID-19 mutated viruses circulating as well as some early inroads by the flu and RSV. The good news its that there are now vaccines that can provide a level of protection against all three of these viruses.
The best time to get your vaccinations is before these viruses peak. Once you are vaccinated, you lower your chance of getting sick and generally lesson the severity of symptoms should you become sick.
Flu vaccines are recommended annually for all age groups older than 6 months. This year’s vaccine has been updated to protect against the strains most likely to circulate this year. Typically, flu season hits its high mark after the first of the year. As a reminder, flu symptoms can include a fever, aches, chills, weakness, stuffy nose, sore throat, headache, chest discomfort and cough.
For the first time, an RSV vaccine is available for older adults, those who are pregnant and babies. RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms that people typically recover from in a week or two. However, should this virus make its way into the lungs, it can cause lower respiratory track disease and result in life-threatening complications in vulnerable people, including those 65 and older as well as the very young. Babies are also particularly susceptible.
COVID-19’s impact continues to be felt, although due to the vaccines as well as antibodies in the population, the severity of the threat has decreased. The latest variant circulating in the U.S. carries symptoms like the flu and may include loss of taste or smell, congestion, nausea and diarrhea. You should check with your primary care provider to see if you should get the updated COVID booster.
One thing to understand about the COVID-19 vaccines is that they are not universally free for everyone anymore and the two-shot series is no longer available. Most insurances cover the cost and Michigan has initiated a program for those who are uninsured. The “booster” shots are now considered regular vaccine doses where anyone can get the vaccine. The decision has not yet been made about whether this will become an annual vaccine like the flu shot.
As a reminder, in addition to the vaccines it is always important to practice good virus prevention tactics such as:
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing or cough into your elbow;
- Washing your hands often or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
- Staying home when you are sick;
- Cleaning and frequently disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school; and
- Drinking plenty of fluids, managing your stress and eating nutritious foods
Seasonal vaccines are available at most retail pharmacies, health departments and at some provider offices. Learn more and find a vaccine location near you at munsonhealthcare.org/fighttheflu.