COVID, RSV are prevalent and the flu is brewing


by Kate Evans

COVID-19, seasonal influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are making the rounds as people are moving indoors with holiday gatherings and cooler weather.  Public health officials say it’s time to get your annual flu shot and updated COVID booster to protect yourself and your family.

COVID shot

A 2023-2024 updated COVID-19 shot is recommended for most people ages 5 years and older to be up to date. Those who are 6 months to 4 years of age need multiple shots.

The updated COVID-19 vaccines-Moderna, Pfizer-Biotech or Novavax- and annual flu shots are safe to get at the same time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC)

COVID-19 vaccination is the best way to protect against severe disease, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19, according to the CDC.  COVID-19 vaccines also reduce the risk of long COVID – a chronic illness that can follow infection.

Morgan County illnesses

Berkeley-Morgan County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Kevin McLaughlin said that doctors are seeing a fair amount of RSV in both children and adults.

COVID, as predicted, has become part of the respiratory viruses going around.  Health professionals haven’t really seen the flu hit hard yet.  There were some flu cases in late September and early October.  Now it’s mostly RSV and a smattering of COVID cases, he said.

The flu vaccine works quite well in heading off the flu, Dr. McLaughlin said. Those with vulnerable health should definitely get the updated COVID shot.  If you’re in a susceptible population (over 65, kids) you should probably get vaccinated for RSV, the doctor recommens.  The pneumonia vaccine works for those it’s indicated for.

McLaughlin said those that haven’t had a COVID vaccine or booster or haven’t had COVID-19 themselves previously are having a worse time with COVID when they get it.  They feel pretty bad for around a week or so.

“It packs a wallop,” McLaughlin said.

Those who have had a COVID vaccine or booster or have had COVID-19 before are faring better, doctors say.

Some people have persistent COVID symptoms of body aches, headaches among other symptoms, known as long COVID, McLaughlin said.  Thankfully it’s a very low number of people.

Strep, GI bugs

Healthcare workers see strep all the time-it never really goes away, McLaughlin said.  It went away when everyone was masking like everything else did, he said.

Gastrointestinal bugs are always around, too. Good hand-washing and good sanitation are important as are keeping foods at the right temperature, refrigeration, cleanliness and cooking foods properly.

When you’re done eating food, wrap it up properly and put it away. You can pick something up from bacteria that grows on the food, he noted.

Flu shot

Health officials are urging everyone six months and older to get their annual seasonal influenza vaccine, especially if they are at high risk for serious flu-related complications. A high-dose influenza vaccine is recommended for those age 65 and older.

There are also RSV vaccines available for those 60 years and older, a new RSV vaccine for pregnant women in their third trimester and a monoclonal antibody product for newborns and at-risk infants to protect at-risk populations from severe respiratory illness from RSV.

Pneumonia vaccines are also recommended for children and adults of all ages. Children and people 65 years of age and older are most susceptible to pneumonia.

Flu, pneumonia, COVID-19 and RSV vaccines are available locally.  Call your pharmacy, family physician’s office and health department for more information.

Be smart

People need to be smart, McLaughlin said.  They need to stay home if they’re sick, practice good hand-washing and good food preparation.

People need to be familiar with what’s going on and to make their own decisions with what they’re comfortable with, such as masking and being in groups.

If you’re not feeling well, stay away from large groups if at all possible. If you’re sick, unwell, have a fever or a cough, don’t put yourself in a position where you can infect others, he said.