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Op-Ed: Cold and flu season is back with a vengeance. Here’s how to handle the ‘Tripledemic’ this holiday

Dr. Theresa Madaline, the Chief Quality Officer at NYC Health +Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health.
Dr. Theresa Madaline, the Chief Quality Officer at NYC Health +Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health.
NYC Health +Hospitals

It’s been three years since we experienced widespread influenza, RSV, and other respiratory viruses in the fall and winter months. COVID-19 surges dominated the last two winters; other viruses were rare. Bad news: Flu, RSV, and other viruses are back on the scene, conspiring with COVID-19 to ruin your holiday season.

Why have these unwelcomed guests returned? Masking mandates have ended, making exposures and transmission more likely. Travel is back to pre-pandemic levels, increasing geographic spread of viruses. Gatherings, celebrations, and indoor dining are commonplace once again. Influenza vaccination rates are lower than they’ve been in 10 years. 

While COVID-19 remains dangerous, influenza and RSV are formidable threats; together they cause up to 900,000 hospitalizations and as many as 60,000 deaths annually in the US. Are we doomed to repeat the 2020 and 2021 holiday seasons filled with super-spreader events and canceled plans? Not necessarily. While the current “tripledemic” of COVID-19, influenza, and RSV is dangerous, here are three gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones to stay healthy this year:

  • Get vaccinated

Flu vaccination protects us from severe disease and potentially fatal complications of influenza. Most people over 6 months old can safely receive a version of the flu vaccine, even those who are pregnant or who have a history of severe egg allergy. Getting a flu vaccine reduces the chance of needing medical care for an influenza infection by about 50% and the chance of death, particularly in children, pregnant persons, and older adults. All eligible persons 6 months and older should get a COVID booster too; being boosted can protect you from infection and greatly reduces the chance of hospitalization or severe illness, even for people who have already had COVID-19.

  • Stay home if you are sick

We have all had about enough of staying home. However, your friends, colleagues, teachers, and family members don’t want to get sick, either. Think of it as a gift to those you care about. 

  • Protect those around you who are vulnerable

Consider masking indoors, and limit the number of people you invite to gatherings where vulnerable people are present, such as infants, pregnant persons, the elderly, those with weakened immune systems. If you are planning to gather indoors, I suggest all attendees take a COVID-19 rapid antigen test right beforehand. For high-risk infants, there is a preventative RSV treatment (palivizumab) available.

At South Brooklyn Health we provide easy access to testing and vaccination. 

Location:

2601 Ocean Parkway

Main Building, 1st Floor (enter on Ocean Parkway)

Hours of Operation:

  • Testing: Mon – Sat (8am – 4pm)
  • Vaccination: Mon, Tues, Wed, and Fri (8 am – 4 pm); Thursdays (8 am – 6:30 pm)

How to Make An Appointment:

For a COVID-19 vaccine or booster, you can walk-in or make an appointment by clicking this link;  or calling 1.877.829.4692.

For a COVID-19 test, which includes a test for the flu and RSV, you can walk-in or call to make an appointment at 1.844.NYC.4NYC.

For a flu vaccine, you can walk-in or call to make an appointment at 1.844.NYC.4NYC

Dr. Theresa Madaline is the Chief Quality Officer at NYC Health +Hospitals/South Brooklyn Health. Dr. Madaline is a practicing Infectious Diseases physician, and former health system Hospital Epidemiologist. 

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