Given the growing threat of a ‘triple epidemic’ due to the increase in respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, RSV and influenza in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention once again recommends the use of a mask as a measure to stop its transmission spread.
“We encourage you to wear a quality, well-fitting mask to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses,” agency director Rochelle Walensky said during a call with reporters, adding that this is particularly important in areas with high traffic COVID-19 circulation.
The news comes after hospitalizations for COVID-19 across the country were the highest in the last three months, according to data compiled by The Washington Post, to which must be added a record of hospitalizations for influenza that -according to official statistics -during Thanksgiving week they reached figures not seen in the last decade and almost double what was registered the previous week.
All this while children’s hospitals are reaching the limit of their capacity due to a particularly alarming rebound in the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV or RSV), whose infections continue to increase. In previous weeks, they had requested a public health emergency, a request that was denied by the White House.
Mask increases protection against other respiratory viruses apart from COVID-19
Walensky indicated that the CDC is considering including other respiratory viruses such as these that also represent a burden for the health system, but that At the moment, people should not wait for them to do so before taking preventive measures.
“You don’t need the CDC to act to put on a mask. We encourage all those preventative measures like handwashing, staying home if there are symptoms, increasing ventilation, to be put in place during this respiratory virus season,” she said in statements collected by CNBC News.
Currently, 5% of the US population lives in counties with a high circulation of covid-19 where the CDC officially recommends the use of a mask, a guideline that also extends to all those who travel by plane, train or bus.
But unlike previous winters, that virus is not the only predominant pathogen.
According to data from the Johns Hopkins monitoring system, 77% of intensive care beds are currently occupied and the majority (about 56,000) correspond to patients who do not have covid-19.
Influenza Hospitalizations Have Soared
Influenza, which was virtually absent in the past thanks to pandemic controls, has come back with a vengeance.
The flu season not only started ahead of schedule, but has also set a record for hospitalizations with more than 78,000, something not seen in the last ten years. In total, to date, almost 9 million infections and 4,500 fatalities have been reported from this other virus of which there is high circulation in 47 US jurisdictions.
For both COVID-19 and the flu, there are vaccines and boosters available that greatly reduce the chances of severe illness requiring hospitalization. But many eligible people remain unvaccinated.
During his talk, Walensky urged people to catch up on those vaccines. “I want to emphasize that the flu vaccine can save lives and, most importantly, there is still time to get vaccinated to protect yourself against the flu this season and its potentially serious consequences.”
Sandra Fryhofer, head of the American Medical Association, said during the call that this alarming start to the flu season “with COVID-19 and RSV is the perfect storm for a terrible holiday season.” “You could get very sick and ruin your celebration and if you don’t get vaccinated,” she insisted.