CDC encourages people to wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid, flu, RSV

CDC encourages people to wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid, flu, RSV

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday encouraged people to wear masks to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses this season as Covid, flu and RSV circulate at the same time.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, speaking to reporters, said wearing a mask is one of several everyday precautions people can take to reduce their chances of contracting or spreading a respiratory virus during the busy holiday season.

“We also encourage you to wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of respiratory illness,” Walensky said, adding that people living in areas with high levels of Covid transmission should especially consider wearing a mask.

The CDC director said the agency is considering expanding its system Community level covid consider other respiratory viruses such as influenza. The system is the basis on which the CDC advises the public to wear masks. But Walensky encouraged people to take proactive action.

“You don’t have to wait for CDC action to put on a mask,” Walensky said. “We would encourage all these preventive measures – hand washing, staying at home when sick, masking, increased ventilation – during the respiratory virus season, but especially in areas with high levels of Covid-19 in the community.”

About 5% of the US population lives in counties where the CDC officially recommends masks due to high levels of Covid. The CDC still recommends masking for anyone traveling by plane, train, bus or other forms of public transportation, Walensky said.

People with weakened immune systems and those who otherwise face an increased risk of serious illness should also consider wearing a mask, the CDC director said.

Walensky strongly encouraged everyone who is eligible to get a flu shot and a Covid booster. Flu vaccination coverage is lagging for at-risk groups — children under 5, pregnant women and at-risk seniors — compared to last year, the CDC director said. There is no vaccine for RSV.

“I want to emphasize that the flu vaccine can save a life and, importantly, there is still time to get vaccinated to protect against this season’s flu and its potentially serious consequences,” Walensky said.

The flu arrived early and hit the US hard with hospitalizations at a decade high for this time of year. More than 8.7 million people have gotten sick, 78,000 have been hospitalized, and 4,500 people have died from the flu this season, according to the CDC. So far this season, 14 children have died from the flu.

More than 19,000 people were hospitalized for the flu during the week ending Nov. 26, nearly double the previous week, according to the CDC.

The number of people hospitalized with Covid also increased by 27% during the week ending December 2, according to the CDC. And respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, hospitalized children more often than in previous years. Walensky said RSV appears to have peaked in the Southeast and may subside in the mid-Atlantic, although virus circulation remains high in much of the country.

“Now we are faced with another wave of disease. Another moment of overstretched capacity and really another moment of tragic death that is often preventable,” Walensky said, thanking health workers for their service during the repeated waves of illness they have faced since It Began the Covid pandemic.

dr. Sandra Fryhofer, chairwoman of the board of the American Medical Association, said that the circulation of Covid, flu and RSV at the same time is “the perfect storm for a terrible holiday season.” Fryhofer said she understands that many people are tired of repeated Covid vaccinations, but getting vaccinated is the best way to avoid getting sick during the holidays.

“You could get very, very sick this year and ruin your holiday celebration if you don’t get vaccinated,” Fryhofer said during Monday’s call.

The Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics last month asked the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency in response to a wave of pediatric hospitalizations due to RSV and influenza.

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