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Here's how you can stay healthy during the holiday flu season, say doctors and CDC

sick woman sneezing in tissue
Delmaine Donson/
A woman sneezes into a tissue.

As we enter the holiday season, Monroe County public health officials say we are not in the clear just yet, and viruses are still circulating.

Although COVID-19 numbers are on the decline, flu and RSV cases continue to overwhelm the health care systems. Preliminary county data shows that RSV is still the dominant infection, but flu cases are rapidly spreading, more than doubling each week. Three people have died with RSV, all 65 or older.

“We've been through so much in the last two and a half years,” said public health commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza. “The last thing anybody wants to hear is that we're not at the end yet, but the reality is, we're not at the end yet.”

Mendoza said people can take common sense precautions when spending time with loved ones to stay healthy.

“We all can take our own health into our own hands,” he said. He added that reverting to what proved “tried and true” is always an option like wearing a mask, getting a vaccine, and being thoughtful about who we gather with and how we’re gathering.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a guide to healthy habits during flu season. They say people should avoid close contacts, stay home if sick and practice good hygiene. That includes covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Protecting the most vulnerable, like older people, infants and anyone with a weakened immune system, is especially important, Mendoza said. Local hospitals are overwhelmed now, and people in these groups are the most likely to be hospitalized if they were to contract any of these viruses.

Infectious disease specialists warn big family get-togethers and travel will spread RSV, flu and COVID-19.

Mendoza said to avoid any more strain on the hospital system, if you're feeling ill or have any health concerns, to call your primary care physician first before going to the emergency room or urgent care.

“We're here to take care of our public and our patients,” he said. “But we all can do our part to try to get through this holiday and into the next year.

Racquel Stephen is a health and environment reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
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