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How to stay healthy during cold, flu and COVID-19 season

How can you keep yourself and others healthy during the worst of the respiratory illness season?
How to stay healthy during cold, flu and COVID-19 season
Posted at 6:12 PM, Jan 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-19 19:12:39-05

In the last week, 25 states tested at high or very high levels of respiratory illness that included fever, cough and other symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two weeks earlier, 37 states were reporting those same levels — so the overall level of illness may currently be on the decline.

But the impacts of respiratory illness are clear: The CDC says flu alone has caused some 180,000 hospitalizations and some 11,000 deaths since October.

COVID-19 is the leading cause of hospital admissions for respiratory illness this winter season, according to the CDC.

January is often the worst month for these seasonal illnesses — and the CDC says vaccination rates this year are low. 

What should you do to stay safe?

- Measures that became familiar during the pandemic are still effective, the CDC says, including hand-washing, using hand sanitizer, and wearing a mask in crowded areas.

- Only 17% of those eligible have received the latest vaccine against COVID-19. Officials say this year's dose still offers good protection against the currently-dominant JN.1 COVID variant.

- Kids in close quarters at school or day care are at risk of picking up new infections no matter how careful you are at home, experts say. They say looking after yourself will help, since stress and sleep deprivation can compromise immune function.

- And prompt testing can help identify an illness if it's COVID-19 or flu. The Test to Treat program was launched in 2022, aiming to increase access to both testing and treatment for COVID-19. Those on Medicare or Medicaid and those without insurance can access free Telehealth and home COVID testing services through the home Test to Treat program.


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