With the arrival of the New Year holiday, the potential for large gatherings poses a significant concern as infection rates of both flu and COVID-19 continue to surge. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that the spread of these respiratory illnesses is on the rise, and San Antonio’s University Health has reported a corresponding increase in cases.
According to data shared with KENS 5 by University Health, infection rates for both flu and COVID-19 have been steadily climbing since the end of November. The looming New Year holiday may exacerbate these numbers, leading to a more substantial surge in cases, particularly due to the potential for large gatherings that could facilitate the transmission of the viruses.
Dr. Bryan Alsip, Chief Medical Officer at University Health, acknowledges the worrisome trend, stating, “We’ve seen a significant increase, particularly in influenza, with both flu A and flu B.” This surge in cases indicates the urgent need for individuals to take necessary precautions and follow preventive measures to curb the spread of these respiratory illnesses.
In addition to the rise in flu cases, University Health has also observed an uptick in outpatient samples testing positive for COVID-19. The CDC has identified a new variant of COVID-19, known as JN-1, which now accounts for a staggering 44% of new COVID-19 cases. This alarming statistic underscores the urgency for individuals to remain vigilant and adhere to recommended safety guidelines.
While the surge in respiratory illnesses is cause for concern, there is a glimmer of hope with regard to another respiratory virus. Cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) have notably decreased both nationally and locally. Dr. Alsip attributes this decline to the RSV vaccine, which appears to have a positive impact on preventing the spread of this particular virus.
Dr. Alsip stresses the importance of receiving the influenza vaccine, emphasizing that it is not too late to get vaccinated. He further encourages individuals to get the COVID-19 vaccine and maintain good hygiene practices to minimize the risk of person-to-person virus transmission. In situations where individuals find themselves in large groups where environmental controls are limited, Dr. Alsip advises the use of masks as an additional preventive measure.
Moreover, Dr. Alsip urges individuals with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions to exercise extra caution and carefully consider the potential risks associated with attending such gatherings. Their vulnerability to severe illness necessitates a thoughtful and cautious approach to ensure their safety and well-being.
As we enter the New Year, the surge in flu and COVID-19 cases serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing threat posed by these respiratory illnesses. The collective effort of individuals in adhering to preventive measures, receiving vaccinations, and exercising caution in social settings will be crucial in curbing the transmission and ultimately overcoming these challenges.