Emergency department visits due to influenza and respiratory syncytial virus are on the rise, and two flu-related deaths were reported in Kitsap County last week.
Also, COVID-19 continues to circulate in the county and five such outbreaks have been reported in long-term care facilities in the past month.
With holiday gatherings and school breaks just around the corner, now is a good time to make sure you are up to date on immunizations and following simple steps to prevent getting and spreading viruses, the county public health district says in a news release.
About 1.5% of emergency department visits were attributed to COVID, 1.2% to flu and .9% to RSV. There were 83 positive COVID tests, 51 for flu and 37 for RSV. On average, about 10 hospital beds at St. Michael Medical Center in Silverdale were in use per day for COVID or flu patients.
KPHD recommends vaccinations as the best defense against the illnesses for everyone 6 months and older. A vaccine can keep you from getting sick or make your illness milder if you do get sick, it says. It can take one to two weeks for a vaccine to begin providing protection, so get vaccinated as early as possible before holiday travel or gatherings.
Vaccines are widely available in Kitsap. Contact your healthcare provider or a pharmacy to schedule an appointment. Vaccines are free for children 18 and younger. Most insurance plans cover the cost of flu and COVID vaccines. And it is safe to get a flu and COVID vaccine on the same visit.
Free COVID self-tests are still available at covid.gov. Every U.S. household can place an order for four tests delivered directly to your home. COVID tests are also available over the counter at many retailers and pharmacies and some healthcare providers offer testing.
Additionally, KPHD can provide tests to community organizations. For details email email@example.com.
If you test positive for COVID, stay home from work or school, KPHD advises.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that typically causes mild illness. RSV can cause serious illness, especially in young children, older adults and other higher-risk groups. Vaccines are available for people at higher risk from RSV: People who are 32-36 weeks pregnant and those ages 60 and older.
Other things you can do to avoid getting or spreading the viruses that cause respiratory illnesses include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, including sharing cups and utensils
- Clean frequently touched surfaces like mobile devices
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your elbow
- Consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces. Some healthcare offices may require masks during respiratory illness season. Watch for signs and follow instructions when you visit a healthcare facility.
- It’s also important to take care of your overall health by eating healthy, staying active, getting sleep and managing stress.