Louisville doctors urge you to protect yourself and loved ones from infectious illnesses this holiday season
Several respiratory illnesses including the flu, COVID-19 and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are circulating in Jefferson County and across the nation. In addition, an outbreak of the measles – a highly infectious respiratory disease – has been identified in a nearby state. As family and friends gather this holiday season, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW), along with area healthcare providers, are reminding you of ways to protect yourself and others from getting sick.
“Our hospitals are starting to get very, very full,” said Dr. Jeff Howard, interim director at LMPHW. “Right now, many patients are being held in ER’s across the city for several hours due to the high volume of patients mixed with staffing shortages. We need to do what we can to protect each other and keep people out of hospitals. The best way to prevent becoming sick is to get protection from vaccines that are offered. Additionally, we are asking you to stay at home if you’re sick, wash your hands often with soap and water, keep frequently touched surfaces clean, ventilate indoor spaces when possible and consider wearing a mask in crowded areas.”
“Multiple respiratory viruses are circulating in our community and sending record numbers of children to the hospital for care. Some viruses, including RSV, are not yet vaccine preventable. We need to protect children with the vaccines we have available, including vaccines for flu, COVID-19 and measles,” said Dr. Kris Bryant, epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at Norton Children’s Hospital.
Influenza, COVID-19 and RSV
Currently in Jefferson County, more than 7,000 cases of the flu have been reported, along with nine flu-related deaths. It is important to note that a flu-related death may not be the primary cause of death. Flu shots are the most effective tool available to prevent serious illness. More information about the flu, including weekly influenza reports, can be found on Louisville’s “Flu Activity” webpage.
The CDC’s data tracker shows the COVID-19 community level in Jefferson County is in the “low” category. However, cases are increasing across the country pushing some surrounding counties into the “medium” and “high-risk” categories. COVID-19 vaccines and testing are still aiding in the fight against the spread of the virus. Today, the Biden administration announced it is restarting its program to send free COVID-19 testing kits through the mail to households that request them. You can order a set of four free tests at COVIDtests.gov. To learn more about COVID-19 facts, testing and vaccination information, visit the Louisville COVID-19 Resource Center.
In recent weeks, RSV outbreaks at facilities like childcare centers have also been reported in the Louisville Metro area. RSV causes cold-like symptoms that can become more serious, especially for infants and older adults. For RSV symptoms, care and state trends visit the CDC’s website.
As of this week, more than 70 cases of the measles have been reported in Columbus, Ohio. More than 25 patients have been hospitalized, according to the City of Columbus. Of the confirmed cases, public health officials report 69 were not vaccinated against the measles, four were partially vaccinated and one had an unknown vaccination status. Measles is highly contagious, and the virus can remain in the air for up to two hours.
Symptoms typically appear 10 to 12 days after exposure and include:
- Runny nose
- Red, watery eyes
- Rash that breaks out 3-5 days after symptoms begin
“No cases of the measles have recently been reported in Jefferson County,” said Dr. Howard. “However, we know many residents will be traveling over the holiday and we want to be proactive by informing our community of this outbreak that’s occurring just a few hours away. Thankfully, measles is a disease that can be prevented by getting vaccinated.”
Two doses of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine is about 97% effective at preventing measles. It is recommended that people 12 months and older get the MMR vaccine.
To learn more about measles click here.
To get the MMR vaccine, contact your primary care provider. LMPHW also provides vaccines for children and adults at its immunization clinics by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, call 502-574-5380 or visit Public Health and Wellness’ “immunizations” page.
Visit www.vaccines.gov to find out where you can get your flu shot and COVID-19 booster.
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ABOUT LOUISVILLE METRO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) is a nationally accredited, independent, academic health department committed to achieving health equity and improving the health and well-being of all Louisville residents and visitors.