FAIRMONT – Faribault and Martin County Departments of Community Health and Human Services are encouraging people to say “boo” to the flu and get a flu shot before Halloween. Apart from this, it also recommends that high-risk groups also get vaccinated against RSV and Covid.
Public Health Practitioner Tim Lange explained that we are entering a season when these diseases are more likely to spread because as children go to school and holiday gatherings begin, people will start spending more time indoors and around others. More contact.
On the COVID-19 front, Lange said they continue to see active COVID cases locally, adding that the Omicron variant has changed over the past year or so.
“It still exists and can still cause serious illness or death, and it does, but mostly in older people and unvaccinated people,” Lange said.
He added that most people with healthy immune systems would do well if infected and would only experience mild cold-like symptoms, but severe cases still occurred across the country.
However, Lange noted that it is better than the original variant and the Delta variant.
While there’s been a lot of chatter about mask mandates as cases have rebounded this season, Lange said his personal view is that mask mandates are over.
“But I do think there are some people, if they’re more susceptible, they might consider wearing a mask. N95 masks can go a long way in stopping the spread of this virus.” Lange said.
Respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV, is a virus that can affect infants and young children as well as older adults.
“There is an effective vaccine against the virus and it is recommended for people aged 60 and over.” Lange said.
Infants infected with RSV almost always develop symptoms, but adults do not, so it can easily spread from adults to children, he said.
Common RSV symptoms include runny nose, cough, sneezing, fever, and wheezing. In young children, it can cause bronchitis and pneumonia.
Speaking of the flu, currently in Minnesota, Langer said they are not seeing high cases of the virus. However, he suggested people should consider getting a vaccine.
“It can be very effective in reducing the chance of catching the virus or developing an infection,” Lange said.
Some immunity may wane if given too early, so Langer said experts recommend now is a good time to get a flu shot so the body can build immunity before more cases appear in the area.
As with all vaccines, Lange acknowledged that people may react differently after receiving the vaccine.
“Usually symptoms are mild, lasting only 24 hours or less. People may have headaches or body aches, but with the flu virus, for example, you won’t get the flu from the vaccine, but you may have side effects.” He said.
Side effects are normal and nothing to worry about. Langer recognizes that while they are troublesome, vaccines will ultimately provide protection in the long run and many people will not develop reactions.
Currently, people can find vaccines for all of these viruses at their local pharmacy. In the meantime, practicing good hygiene goes a long way toward preventing illness.
“I think people need to be reminded to cover their mouths and noses when coughing and wash their hands during this season, and to do all the simple things we can do to prevent the spread of illness, whether it is severe or not. Even a simple cold can be prevented by coughing and washing hands .” Lange said.