With multiple respiratory illnesses looming large in the community and holiday gatherings happening for many in the next week, Washington County Health Officer Earl Stoner hopes everyone will again take several basic steps to help keep the community well.
“Vaccines truly are one of the biggest success stories in public health in the U.S., where individuals clearly benefit from the protection they offer,” says Stoner. “In addition, if vaccination levels are high enough within a population, protection may be extended to those unable to be vaccinated – due to a medical restriction or age. Without enough susceptible individuals acting as carriers, the disease can’t effectively be transmitted from person to person.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this year’s flu vaccine is well-matched to the viruses that are causing illness in 2022. For more than 50 years, people in the U.S. have been safely given vaccines for influenza, keeping many from being hospitalized or dying from it. Stoner encourages county residents to request a flu vaccination from their primary care provider or visit one of the area pharmacies to get the shot, as it’s “not too late to protect yourself.”
The COVID-19 vaccinations are now available in some form – primary series or boosters – for anyone age six months and older. The Washington County Health Department continues to offer free COVID-19 vaccines at weekly clinics. The full schedule is updated regularly here: https://washcohealth.org/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/wchd-covid-19-vaccine-clinics/
“Everyone should have a right to receive these safe and effective vaccines that are protecting people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized and dying,” says Stoner. “It continues to be proven that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer, more reliable way to build than getting sick with COVID-19 and that it can offer added protection to people who had COVID-19, including protection against being hospitalized from a new infection.”
While vaccinations are something the health department can educate the community about and offer as a service, several very effective public health measures for fighting the spread of infections like the flu, COVID-19 and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) – which had a much earlier start to its season than pre-COVID years – need individual members of the community to take responsibility for and maintain.
“Hand washing often and well works to stop the spread of infection. Masks work to keep germs at bay by containing coughs and all that comes with them,” says Stoner. “By making hand washing and masking in public places and anytime coughs and colds are present priorities, we are all contributing to better health for our community. While mandates are not currently a part of our everyday life like they were during the peak times of the pandemic, multiple viruses are here, in our community, among us, so we all should be doing what we can as individuals to keep our families, friends and neighbors healthy. Isn’t that really the best holiday gift ever?”
Information on the current respiratory viruses in the community, as well as education on how best to prevent getting severely sick or making others ill is available here: https://washcohealth.org/health-topics/