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What you need to know to stay healthy this holiday season

Flu is on the rise amid high travel times in the Mid-South.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thousands across the U.S. have been hospitalized for the flu in just the last week and Memphis is no different. Prevention methods when it comes to illnesses are also no different this year.

Baptist Memorial Medical Director of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Steve Threlkeld, said washing your hands and keeping your distance large crowds are best, but without also getting vaccinated, you’re still at a high risk for contracting an illness.

Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital said RSV patient numbers are averaging about zero to two patients per day. But children aren’t the only ones at risk of RSV, and the flu is making it’s way through the Mid-South.

“Everybody needs to get the vaccine, but if you haven’t gotten it by now, it’s too late to protect against this particular holiday,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “Still get it to protect against the later ones, but if you’re sick over this holiday season, please don’t go and be around elderly people or people with bad underlying health problems or the very young – under six months – who can’t be vaccinated against some things.”

Good air flow to prevent illness was a big deal when it came to COVID, and it still should be when it comes to holiday parties.

“At least have some fair ventilation – open the windows or doors very briefly and keep the air moving a little bit more than you might ordinarily, because that will protect particularly against COVID. With the flu and RSV, it’s a heavier emphasis on hand sanitizing and sort of not shaking hands,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “Sneeze into your sleeve for example, not out into the room at your other guests.”

We kept the flu and RSV away for a while with strict COVID precautions, but they’ve made an earlier comeback this year. 

South America sees their winter illness peak prior to the U.S., so doctors were expecting and preparing for a harsher and earlier illness season this year - and thankfully, the Mid-South is prepared to handle an influx of patients.

“I would say the good news is, is that in this area, Memphis and the Mid-South, we’re in a peculiarly large bed base per capita,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “So, we have more hospital beds than most places around - even in our country, particularly among smaller towns. It gets to be a real problem when you have increases of things like RSV along with flu and the occasional COVID case continuing.”

Although it’s too late for any vaccine to kick into full effect by Thanksgiving on Thursday, if you get vaccinated today your body will be ready to protect against illnesses by the next big holiday.

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