Snapshot

Health officials are bracing for a surge in respiratory illnesses

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Public health officials are bracing for what could be another post-Thanksgiving surge in respiratory illnesses. A potential perfect storm of three viruses: COVID-19, influenza and RSV.

Watch out for early symptoms. Doctors say there are effective treatments for two of the three viruses. Also stay home if you feel sick.

It was a Thanksgiving weekend of gatherings, including large crowds, shopping and jammed airports. All this togetherness has doctors worried about a potential rise in respiratory diseases that circulate and spread easily from person to person.

COVID-19 does not appear to cause serious illness now, but RSV and influenza do.

“The predominant influenza A strain this year is the one that can cause serious illness in children and the elderly, and we have seen this play out in Southern Hemisphere countries,” said Dr. Michael Daignault, doctor of the emergency department, said.

Doctors say it’s important to be up to date on vaccinations for COVID-19 and the flu. There are tests for both but not RSV, which can be especially dangerous for young children and the elderly.

“There are things you can do with RSV, that is to avoid congregational settings, and especially if you have a cold or sneeze, stay home, wear a mask, wash your hands,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser, said.

Doctors say it will take three to five days to know if there will be a post-Thanksgiving spike in illnesses.

Jimmy Sheffield, who flew to spend the holidays with this brother, hopes he avoided being infected.

“For me it’s very important. I don’t do anything casual without the mask. I have to eat, but other than that I put the mask on,” Sheffield said.

Doctors say people who feel sick should get tested because there are treatments for flu and COVID-19 that, if taken early, can prevent serious illness.

“For flu, it’s Tamiflu. For COVID, of course, it’s Paxlovid. If you’re older or immune compromised. Tamiflu can work for almost all age groups,” said Dr. Peter Chin Hong, infectious disease expert from the UCSF, said.

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