How to protect yourself and your loved ones during this “triple epidemic”

Right now, the US is in the midst of an infectious disease trifecta. The “tripledemia” of coronavirus, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has led to NY Y Los Angeles County, among others, to “strongly recommend” masking indoors. officials in Oakland Y sacrament may follow suit soon. The CDC, which has barely spoken about wearing masks over the past year, now recommends wearing one based on community levels of Covid-19, a recommendation that considers hospital admissions, available beds, and number of case rates.

Look, I’m not trying to scare you with this factually scary information. The data simply speaks to how crucial it is to prepare to endure this season. There’s a sense of fatigue, especially when it comes to Covid: It’s been almost three years since that particular pandemic began, and recommendations from officials remain muddled. It’s overwhelming; I totally get it. But addressing the emotional reality of navigating these illnesses can go a long way toward protecting you and your loved ones.

The cases of covid-19 have raised by 26 percent during the two weeks to December 19, while hospitalizations and deaths have seen an increase of 14 percent and 63 percent, respectively. And this flu season tends to be one of the worst in recent years. the cdc Dear that 15 million people have contracted the flu this season. As of December 16, at least 150,000 people have been hospitalized and 9,300 have died from above-average flu rates. And although RSV is starting to trend down, infection rates remain high. These high disease rates are also putting a great make force in hospitals and pharmacies.

So how can we best navigate this disgusting viral chaos? I asked Elizabeth Stuart, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and James Conway, a pediatric infectious disease physician at the University of Wisconsin. Here’s his advice, edited for length and clarity.

Do not presenteeism: stay home if you are sick

This one feels more obvious, but for many reasons, it doesn’t always work. some employers have exploitation workplace policies to ensure that workers enter even when they are not feeling well. Some employees succumb to the idea that working while sick makes them the ideal employee, someone willing to sacrifice their well-being for the company.

But symptoms of any kind, mild or severe, are a sure sign to stay home. “For too many years, whether in the workplace or at important social engagements, people took it as a badge of pride that they would stick it out and go to work even if they were sick,” Conway said. “I think people have finally come to recognize that that’s impractical and a bit disrespectful to others.”

for the people who you can’t miss a turn — the reality for many in the service industry, especially — other measures like masking, handwashing, and vaccination will be critical to your well-being and the well-being of everyone else. (The biggest help, of course, would be a universal sick leave policy.)

Get vaccinated!

Make sure you are up to date with your vaccinations. Unfortunately, both flu shot Y covid booster rates they are falling behind this year, which is worrisome considering the severity of the season.

“The vaccines are actually very good this year for what is circulating and they are doing well,” Conway said.

Some remain wavering when it comes to vaccines, some lack of access to the vaccines they need, and others do not believe they are necessary. For Covid boosters specifically, Conway says people likely believe that getting their primary series, recently contracting the coronavirus, or some combination of both protects them well enough. (If you contract Covid-19 before getting vaccinated or boosted, the CDC recommends delaying the intake three months after the onset of symptoms or a positive test. You will get the most out of your vaccine if you overcome your post-viral immunity.)

“That was probably decent enough in the delta era,” he said. “But with these rapidly emerging omicron variants, especially this new BQ sub-variant that replaced BA.4 and BA.5, you’re basically unprotected unless you’ve had the bivalent booster.”

New Covid subvariants could cause more breakthrough infections. Wear a mask and wash your hands.

Both Stuart and Conway advised keeping plenty of masks on hand: hang one next to your car keys, keep a few in your bag, throw an extra in your coat pocket, and share it with others. The same goes for hand sanitizer or, preferably, regular hand washing.

“Some of these viruses aerosolize and fly through the air, but most respiratory viruses are spread by what we call droplets, where people cough and sneeze and land somewhere,” Conway explained. “And then you touch that space and you touch your own face. Wearing a mask is one way to keep your hands away from your face. Hand hygiene is an extra layer.”

Finding a mask that fits you well is also essential, Stuart added. If you like your mask, you are more likely to wear it and you can buy that winner in bulk.

The caveat is that the masks can be expensive. Stuart advised checking to see if any organizations in his area are giving them away for free. In Washington, DC, for example, masks are available to anyone who wants them at local Covid centers. The CDC also has a tool that allows people to find free n95 according to your zip code. A quick search turned up CVS, Walgreens, local pharmacies and several major supermarket chains are an important part of the program in the more rural areas, which still suffer limited access to vaccines.

If you manage to grab an N95 or KN95, you can wear it until it’s visibly dirty, too baggy, or comes undone—knowing that it’s okay to stretch that mask out throughout the week. “The masks are disposable but not single use,” Stuart said. “You don’t need a new mask every day or for every interaction.”

Let the outside air in and blow out anything yucky.

If you share a home with someone who is sick, don’t be afraid to wear a mask inside or open a window to help ventilate the space.

“This week my daughter has been sick and now I wear a mask inside the house when I am with her,” Stuart said. “We hope that we have learned from the last few years to appreciate ventilation more and how to prevent the spread, whether it is opening the windows a bit or wearing masks, especially in large groups.”

You can also circulate air throughout your home by placing a fan in the window, running the exhaust fan over the stove or in the bathroom, that helps move air out of the house, or buy a HEPA air filter if you can afford it. A humidifier It might also come in handy, as the coronavirus isn’t a fan of humid air.

Set the tone with friends and family

Setting boundaries with loved ones isn’t always easy, but doing so benefits everyone during this tripledemic. So don’t feel guilty about turning down invitations to crowded parties or not allowing anyone who isn’t vaccinated to attend a gathering you’re hosting.

Also, requiring flu and covid vaccinations, or a rapid test before arrival, might not be that important to them anyway.

“I’m a little pleased with some of the invitations I’ve gotten to social gatherings where people say their expectation is that everyone is vaccinated,” Conway said. “Where that would be considered provocative in the past, I think it’s becoming a bit more normalized.”

juliet craven she’s a writer who covers everything she thinks is great, and she’s the brains behind make it make sensea wellness newsletter

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