Tips for Staying Safe on Vacation: Q&A with an Infectious Disease Specialist

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CityNews caught up with Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist, to discuss tips for staying safe during the holiday season.

As we approach the end of the year, families are expected to come together and spend time with their loved ones. Unfortunately, 2022 bears similarities to the previous two years, as Canada grapples with a wave of respiratory viruses.

CityNews sat down with Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist, to discuss tips for staying safe during the holiday season.

So where are we in terms of the virus cocktail at this time of year?

Well actually we are still dealing with three main viruses. we have covid That is actually increasing again. We have respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). And that seems to be declining. We are not sure if it is at a plateau or declining yet.

But when we say plateau, we’re still talking about, you know, 500 to 600 weekly cases. And then we also have the flu. The flu has been particularly bad for the last three weeks. Three weeks ago, we were a little more than 2,000 cases.

The last two weeks, we have had over 3,000 cases. Some people think that the cases are declining, but it is still over 3000. And so only time and more data will tell what will happen over the next few weeks.

We have to keep in mind that these three viruses right now are actually causing, you know, not just circulation in the community with people receiving calls. We are also seeing people hospitalized with COVID or flu and of course young and old with RSV as well.

So, you know, we’re still dealing with the impacts of these viruses.

What is the best way to minimize the spread during the holiday period?

Well, there are two strategies. You can prevent getting infections and you can prevent getting diseases.

In terms of disease prevention, where you have symptoms that need to seek medical attention, there are only two strategies available right now: against COVID and against flu and against both, you really need to be up to date on your covid vaccine. That means you must have received one dose in the last five months. And ideally, you know, an up-to-date vaccine like, you know, one of Pfizer’s bivalent vaccines or even the subunit vaccine like Novavax.

And for the flu, you really need to get a flu shot. We know that it really works based on, you know, data from countries in the Southern Hemisphere. Those are the two things you can do right now to prevent those viruses from getting sick.

There’s not much you can do in terms of RSV vaccines, in terms of getting infected. What you should do is avoid being around sick people. And that means if you’re sick, you shouldn’t be around other people.

And if you’re going to be around other people, you should use measures to protect yourself from getting that. And those are the basic things that we’ve been saying about masks and ventilation and distancing.

When it comes to meetings, what exactly can people do to stay healthy?

Well, let’s not deny the fact that we all want to get together to see family and friends during this Christmas holiday period. And no one is trying to prevent that. What we want to do is do it safely.

So if you have symptoms and no matter how mild, like a runny nose, sore throat, or cough, don’t really visit other people because they don’t want your virus. Don’t go visiting people especially or be around people who have high-risk conditions or who are at risk of serious illness, like the elderly or immunocompromised people or pregnant women and that sort of thing.

If you don’t have symptoms, don’t think you still have the green light. Because remember, COVID can have this, you know, weekly or asymptomatic period for you and everyone around you, get a quick test. And if that’s negative, go to your meeting. I think if we could take those basic steps, it would be a big step.

Of course the other thing is, you know, be reasonable in terms of the size of your meeting. If you have, as you know, a small gathering space, but it’s so dense that people can’t walk around, it’s probably too dense. And if you have people who may not have tested themselves or maybe minimally systematic, you can see how that can lead to transmissions.

If you are going to be in a space where people are going to gather, try to improve the ventilation. It’s going to be a bit difficult because we’re dealing with winter and a storm is likely to come.

That makes it a bit unrealistic in terms of opening windows. But you can use things like portable air filters and that can help.

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