Tips to Protect Residents This Holiday Season
BREWSTER, NY—The holiday season is here…and so are contagious respiratory illnesses. This year there is a triple threat: high circulating levels of flu, COVID and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Everyone is familiar with the first two, and safe and effective vaccines are available for both. RSV may be less familiar, but it has been around for decades. RSV vaccines are being developed, but none are currently available.
This year’s spike in RSV cases has attracted lots of attention. As a common respiratory illness, it usually has seasonal peaks in colder months. This year increases started in the summer and levels now are already exceeding the higher numbers typically seen later in RSV season. For healthy adults, symptoms are like the common cold, most often a runny nose and cough. In very young children, especially those born preterm or with underlying lung conditions, and older adults and individuals with compromised immune systems, it can cause serious illness and lead to pneumonia.
Flu cases also started earlier than usual and with greater numbers. This mirrors what was seen in the southern hemisphere, which experts use to predict what may happen in the north. So far, predictions of an early and severe flu season are holding true for New York and the rest of the country.
“Residents hearing stories on the news about high levels of respiratory illness around the country should be aware that this is also true in Putnam County,” reports the health department’s epidemiologist, Alison Kaufman, DVM, MPH. “COVID cases remain steady at about 150 per week, and in the last reporting week we saw cases of flu more than double from 39 up to 98 cases.”
“The good news is that there are a number of things we can do to protect ourselves and our families,” said Kathleen Percacciolo, RN, supervising public health nurse. “Flu and COVID vaccines are available through pharmacies, healthcare providers, and here at the department of health as well.”
The health department has a clinic with flu shots available on Thursday, December 1, at the health department office at 1 Geneva Road in Brewster. Appointments must be made and are available from 3 to 4 p.m. Bivalent COVID boosters may be available as well depending on overall demand. For information and to schedule a time, call 845-808-1390, x43230.
Public health initiatives work to address barriers to accessing basic healthcare, including vaccinations. Clinics are also held in the Village of Brewster, supported by the NYSDOH Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker (MSFW) program which ensures eligible residents receive access to vital vaccinations, while helping to address vaccine equity. The next MSFW clinic is scheduled on November 22, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Brewster Methodist Church, at 83 Main Street. The following MSFW clinic will be held on December 13, at its regular location, 121 Main Street. For more information on the MSFW program or to check eligibility, call the health department at the same number, 845-808-1390, x 43230.
With holiday gatherings nearly here, it’s important to get flu and COVID shots soon. The best immunity is achieved about two weeks after each injection. There are other precautions that work well too…stay home when you are sick, cover coughs and sneezes, dispose of used tissues, and practice good hand hygiene. Keeping windows open for good air circulation helps also.
“If symptoms develop for any respiratory illness, especially if they are severe, contact your health
Other prevention tips for RSV and respiratory viruses, including COVID and the flu, are ones everyone by now is very familiar with—social distancing and masking in crowded settings. These are particularly important for people living with newborns, very young children, and the elderly or immune-compromised.
To relieve any symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control recommends over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Aspirin should never be given to children, and it is important to talk to a healthcare provider before giving children any over-the-counter cold medicines because some ingredients are not good for children.) Also drink enough fluids to prevent loss of body fluids and dehydration.
The mission of the Putnam County Department of Health, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), is to improve and protect the health of the entire Putnam County community, composed of nearly 100,000 residents. Core services are provided through a lens of equity, and include community health assessment, disease surveillance and control, emergency preparedness, environmental health protection, family health promotion and health education. For more information, please visit our county website at www.putnamcountyny.com, or visit our social media sites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PutnamHealthNY.