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Holiday travel, gatherings likely to increase the spread of respiratory viruses

family traveling with suitcases to an airport or public transportation, all wearing masks

Holiday travel, gatherings likely to increase the spread of respiratory viruses
December 2, 2022

Three respiratory viruses — COVID-19influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV — are currently circulating in the U.S., and experts worry that holiday travel and gatherings could fuel their spread and further increase the number of cases.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health alert about the fall season increase in cases of influenza and RSV infection, primarily affecting young children.

To help protect against severe disease and hospitalization, the CDC recommends vaccinations against influenza and COVID-19 for all eligible people 6 months or older. 

While not yet available, there is good news on the vaccine front for fighting RSV, too.

"A number of vaccine manufacturers have developed vaccines, including a couple of them through phase three trials," says Dr. Gregory Poland, head of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group. "Very likely, certainly before this time next year, I think we'll have a licensed RSV vaccine for adults, and then they'll move clinical trials down to kids. So we're definitely making progress there."

In addition to available vaccines, the toolkit for stopping the spread of viruses is familiar now after two years of battling COVID-19. The most basic protection measure, masking, is still effective, but many have grown tired of using it.

"Most people now are not wearing a mask, they're embarrassed to wear a mask, they're fatigued of it," explains Dr. Poland. "Over these holiday wintertime periods, it's very likely we'll have a surge of influenza and COVID-19 related to this kind of behavior. Don't let fatigue and letting your guard down be the reason that you get infected and suffer a complication."

On the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast, Dr. Poland discusses the latest news on RSV, COVID-19 and this year's flu season.

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Research disclosures for Dr. Gregory Poland