Most Americans not concerned about respiratory illnesses despite severe risks

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New York, Nov 13 (IANS) Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning that this year will be potentially dangerous for respiratory illnesses, a third of Americans are not concerned about the threat, a new national survey has revealed.

The survey by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that while the majority of those polled (87 per cent) said they do everything they can to avoid spreading seasonal viruses, one-third think their vaccine decision doesn’t affect others and that they don’t need vaccines for the flu or Covid-19 if they’re not at high risk.

“Unfortunately, respiratory viruses can cause really severe and life-changing diseases for some people, even among the young and very healthy. The best way to help prevent a virus from really upending your life or others is to get vaccinated,” said Megan Conroy, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist.

Along with the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Covid-19 has become part of the respiratory virus season, resulting in strain on the healthcare system.

The CDC projects the total number of hospitalisations will be higher this year than in seasons before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The flu kills tens of thousands of Americans every year.

“We get an idea of how bad a respiratory illness season the US will have by looking at what happened in the southern hemisphere where flu season is during our summer. Australia had almost a record setting influenza season,” Conroy added.

That’s concerning and a sign that we may have higher flu numbers than average and certainly higher than in recent years since universal masking has gone by the wayside.

When it comes to flu and Covid-19 vaccinations, it’s recommended everyone six months and older get both vaccines every season with rare exceptions.

It’s safe to get both at the same time, and clinical trials are underway on whether both vaccines can be combined into a single shot, Conroy said.

For RSV, the recommendation is vaccination for adults aged 60 and older and those pregnant during weeks 32 through 36 of their pregnancy from September to January.

A pneumonia vaccination is recommended for adults age 65 or older, those age 5 to 64 who are at increased risk for pneumonia due to chronic heart or lung disease or weakened immune systems and children younger than 5.

“Whenever we have more viruses in the community, it’s likely that we’ll also see more bacterial and viral pneumonia, and it can cause severe illness in people of all ages,” Conroy noted.

“Keeping your guard up about respiratory illnesses is important because they’re going to be here every year,” the authors noted.

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