What health officials say you need to know about the 'tridemic' ahead of the holidays

Posted at 7:32 AM, Dec 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-20 07:32:48-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- As many prepare to see family during the holidays, health officials want you to be aware of rising cases of the flu, RSV and COVID-19.

Doctors with VCU Health System said Richmond isn't quite at the level of some hospitals across the country where they’re overwhelmed with patient volume and staffing shortages — but they are seeing a concerning increase in respiratory viral infections. With Christmas just five days away, those numbers could grow.

Dr. Gonzalo Bearman is the chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases for VCU, and he noted they are seeing a higher volume of RSV patients than usual.

"Even in adults, the disease can pose a significant threat, especially for older people, individuals with chronic lung disease or individuals with chronic underlying conditions," explained Bearman.

He also wants to remind people that getting a COVID vaccine or booster before traveling for the holidays is a good idea, and if you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, you can go ahead and get both at the same time.

"You're probably have two sore arms," noted Bearman. "That's the most common side effect. There are other side effects, like heavy muscle aches and pains and fevers. Those are usually gone within 24 to 48 hours."

With the rise in infections, the CDC is recommending you do what you can to lower your chance of getting sick, and that could include mask wearing.

"Even if you are vaccinated in crowded indoor environment, where the air is not well ventilated, you may want to consider still wearing a mask," Bearman explained. "That doesn't mean everyone has to wear a mask, but certainly, if there's a risk to you, then certainly wear a mask. Hand washing should never be discounted, it's still important."

According to the CDC, if you test positive for the virus and have symptoms, day zero of isolation is the day your symptoms started — but if you aren’t symptomatic, day zero is the day you received a positive test.

You should isolate for the first five days regardless of symptoms.

If you are fever-free for 24 hours, you can end your isolation but wear a mask whenever you are around others for the following five days.

Bearman said if you feel unwell, you should get tested for the flu and COVID.

"Not even the most experienced doctor can tell the difference between COVID-19 and flu, just on symptoms, so you need to get tested," he said. "If you have a viral respiratory-like illness, get tested. It could be COVID, it could be flu, it could be RSV, it can be many other viral infections. And for some of these, we actually have very decent treatments for it. So get tested."

If you’re exposed to COVID-19, health experts recommend you wear a mask for 10 days after exposure to help reduce the risk of spreading the disease to others.

According to the Virginia Department of Health website, day zero is the day of your last exposure to someone with COVID-19. Day 1 is the first full day after your last exposure.

If you choose to, you should get tested on day six.

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