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Health officials encourage COVID and flu vaccinations ahead of holiday gatherings

Cases of severe respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are high in San Diego County, at the same time as an early and aggressive start of the flu season. That’s in addition to continued community circulation of the coronavirus.

The three viruses can create a dangerous mix, according to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, but, he said, the biggest battle is fighting misinformation.

“Don't let your kids get infected and sick if you don't have to — because you know how to take care of them,” Becerra said. “Please don't go into the holidays and expect to hug and kiss your family members freely, safely if you haven't gotten vaccinated.”

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Health officials say now is the time to use proven techniques such as getting vaccinations, wearing masks and staying home when sick to keep everyone safe this fall and winter.

“We know that influenza and RSV are occurring much earlier than is usually expected. So that’s an indication that we might have a bad flu season and a bad winter season with many, or several, respiratory infections,” San Diego County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten told KPBS.

When people protect themselves and loved ones against sickness, public health officials said, it also helps to minimize stress on the hospital system.

“Similar to what we saw during the COVID surges, with more illnesses there's more demand for the health care services,” Rady Children’s Hospital CEO Dr. Patrick Frias said. “That in the end is straining the resources of all of our health systems across the region, from the emergency rooms to the urgent cares and to the clinics.”

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Vaccinations are available for the seasonal flu and COVID-19, along with treatment.

Though there’s currently no vaccine for RSV, health workers are experienced in treating severe cases, many in young children and older adults.

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