4 steps to keep you healthy as RSV, flu and COVID-19 season begins
As students return to school and the weather nudges more people indoors, medical experts are closely monitoring the increasing circulation of respiratory viruses. Among their concerns are the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19 — all potentially life-threatening and capable of overwhelming hospitals.
Between Aug. 13 and Aug. 19, 2023, hospital admissions in the U.S. linked to COVID-19 increased by almost 19%, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With the current COVID-19 uptick and the approaching flu and RSV season, it’s important to take steps to stay healthy and protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities:
- Get vaccinated. An annual flu vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 6 months or older. The updated COVID-19 booster is expected to be more effective against the current strains circulating in the U.S. RSV vaccines are available for those ages 60 and older. You can get more than one vaccination at the same time.
Two monoclonal antibody RSV immunizations are available for children under 8 months old. The CDC recommends one dose for all infants younger than 8 months — born during — or entering their first RSV season (typically fall through spring) and infants ages 8 to 19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV disease and entering their second RSV season. An RSV vaccine will soon be available for pregnant people, so antibodies can be passed to babies before they’re born.
- Take everyday actions to prevent the spread of disease. Cover your coughs and sneezes, stay away from people who are sick, stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands often, and improve air circulation in your home and workplace. The CDC also recommends wearing a KN-95 mask in public if you have symptoms of respiratory illness, if you’re immunocompromised or at increased risk of severe disease, or if you’re in an area where the risk of transmission is high, such as on public transportation. Now might be a good time to stock up on masks and other supplies like hand sanitizer and COVID-19 tests.
- Know what treatment is available if you’re at risk of severe illness due to age, chronic medical conditions or being immunocompromised. Prescription antiviral medications are available for the treatment of both flu and COVID-19. These treatments are especially important for people who are at higher risk of complications from respiratory illnesses. If you start to feel sick, talk with your health care provider so they can start these treatment in the first few days of illness when medications work the best.
- Know your options before you need care. Sign in to regence.com through the Regence app or on your computer and use the Find care tool to locate care options near you. It’s also helpful to have a primary care provider (PCP) to contact when you or a loved one is sick. If you don’t have one, we can help you find one.
Regence members have alternatives to Emergency Rooms (ER) that many find faster, more convenient and less expensive:
- Virtual care – your regular doctor may be able to advise you by phone or over the computer in the comfort of your home.
- At-home care – some Regence plans offer access to DispatchHealth for care that comes to you. DispatchHealth is available in select locations.
- Urgent care clinics – many urgent care clinics are conveniently located and more accessible than ERs.
We’re here to help
The flu and COVID-19 vaccines are both covered with no out-of-pocket cost for most Regence members. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about getting vaccinated.
If you get sick and need care, call your PCP. Consider virtual care or an urgent care clinic before heading to the ER. ERs are by far the most expensive option and they’re extremely busy so wait times will be long. Visit regence.com for help finding the right care option.