Tips to avoid holiday respiratory illnesses

COVID-19 doesn’t care about your holiday plans. 
The risk of contracting seasonal viruses like the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 increase during the fall and winter months. Enter Thanksgiving and Christmas parties, and the numbers start to skyrocket. 
Four years after the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic hit, South Carolina is seeing 41 hospital admissions on a daily average due to the virus, according to a December 2023 tracker from The New York Times. 
“Our major holidays fall within what we consider respiratory virus season, so it’s important that everyone take precautions to ensure they stay safe and healthy while enjoying time with family and friends during the holiday season,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, director of Health Promotion and Services with the South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
Between new variants and the rise of infections during the holidays, doctors at Roper St. Francis in Mount Pleasant encourage patients to stay up to date on their vaccinations. 
Dr. Emily Young, a family medicine physician at Roper St. Francis, noted the presence of the virus at her clinic. “COVID-19 cases are still active in the community and with the weather cooling down and other viruses on the rise, patients are more likely to spread it.”
Dr. Young said individuals and families planning holiday gatherings should frequently wash their hands and wear a mask, especially those who are symptomatic. She encourages patients to isolate and avoid large gatherings for the health and safety of the community if they have the flu or coronavirus. 
The impact of respiratory illnesses are not limited to holiday celebrations. Schools across the state grapple with the challenges posed by seasonal viruses. Katie Tanner, Berkeley County School District’s chief communications officer, explained the district’s current status, “We are seeing an increase in illnesses during this time due to many reasons, including RSV, flu, COVID-19. This is to be expected. We have not seen a dramatic increase in positive COVID-19 cases. We have seen an uptick in positive flu cases throughout the district at this time.”
Tanner said educators continue to balance the delivery of quality education with the need to maintain a safe environment. Students and staff who test positive isolate for five days and must wear a face mask up until day 10 of the virus. 
The district continues to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DHEC guidelines, along with implementing technology for remote learning when necessary to ensure a safe learning environment, Tanner said.
DHEC and the CDC recommend everyone six months and older get the updated COVID-19 vaccine and the annual flu vaccine, if they have not already received them this fall.  
“Taking the simple step of getting vaccinated can help prevent you from getting sick, and even if you get sick, vaccination also markedly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death, allowing you to spend this holiday season with friends and family,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC director.
Simmer encourages those who are sick or experiencing COVID-like symptoms not to attend social gatherings during the holidays. He recommends reaching out to a local health care provider to schedule your updated shots.
Local experts say their advice is clear: vaccination, adherence to safety guidelines, and responsible holiday planning is instrumental in mitigating the impact of viral illness during your festivities. 

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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