Flu cases are growing nationwide, including in Florida. One physician offers the best ways to plan accordingly before gathering for the holidays.
TAMPA, Fla. – It is the season to travel, as millions of Americans are getting ready to celebrate Christmas and ring in the new year.
A lot of people celebrate the holidays in big groups, which could be risky right now.
Almost every state is experiencing "high" to "very high" respiratory illness activity, according to recent data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida ranks "high." Flu season's official start is in October.
"I think there’s a lot travel that goes on with Florida, a lot of people are coming from the north to escape the harsh winter. So, I think there’s a lot of intermingling of viruses, and people, and infection, so I am not surprised that Florida is high," said Dr. Antonio Luis, an internal medicine doctor specializing in primary care in Pinellas County.
Dr. Luis said he is seeing a lot of flu cases, COVID-19 cases, and RSV cases which are more common in kids.
All of this while so many people are getting ready to travel.
"The flu usually hits you pretty quickly with high fever, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, sometimes nausea, and it kind of hits you like a ton of bricks," said Dr. Luis. "COVID, we’ve seen it kind of creep up on people. They don’t even know it, They can sometimes have a fever. It can sometimes do nothing. It does a lot of different things."
Start by getting vaccinated, Dr. Luis advised. There is a new COVID booster that came out in September. Plus, there is the flu shot.
Dr. Luis said the flu shot looks to be more effective than last year’s.
"It keeps you out of the hospital," he said. "It keeps you from getting sick 40-60% of the time, keeps you from getting severe illnesses and hospitalizations."
Once someone gets the shot, Dr. Luis said it takes about two weeks before it can protect you. So, plan accordingly.
He also recommends measuring the risks of gathering with others before meeting up with family.
"If you’re planning on going somewhere two weeks beforehand, make preparations to not be as social, maybe stay back a little bit, especially if you want to see your family," Dr. Luis said.
Medical experts also urge travelers to wear masks.
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