Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones From Respiratory Viruses This Holiday Season

PH updates

November 21, 2022

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Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones
From Respiratory Viruses This Holiday Season

With respiratory viruses circulating and illness on the rise, we want to remind you of some strategies you can use to reduce your risk of infection with COVID-19, influenza (the flu) and RSV as you travel, and host or attend gatherings for the upcoming holidays.

You've likely heard that there has been an increase in RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases around the country, in Michigan and around our region. This increase, and the onset of flu season, recently prompted the Michigan Health and Hospital Association to release a statement urging parents to take preventive measures to protect their children as hospitals experience a shortage of pediatric beds and all care is impacted.

RSV Activity in Michigan

RSV PCR TestingRSV PCR Testing Notes

Flu season has started in the United States and typically peaks between December and February. Flu activity is elevated across the country. In Ottawa County, influenza test positivity is currently elevated.

Influenza Test Positivity in Ottawa County 

OC Influenza Test Positivity

And while we're not hearing as much about COVID-19 these days, cases are still circulating in Ottawa County. Although current official case counts are underreported, a winter surge may be expected, similar to the trend observed during the winter over the last two years.

Comparison of COVID-19 Case Rates by Year in Ottawa County

COVID 7 Day Case Averages

All of these viruses are spread in similar ways, most often through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. RSV is more easily spread by contact with contaminated surfaces than the viruses that cause COVID-19 and the flu, though it is possible for all of these viruses to be spread this way.

The good news is that there are things you can do to create a safer holiday for your most vulnerable loved ones (and everyone else!).  COVID-19 prevention strategies also work well at providing protection from other respiratory viruses. These tips will be useful over the coming winter months to help lower your risk of contracting or spreading a respiratory illness as well.

  • Watch for any new symptoms of illness. It is difficult to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to identify the illness. 
    Symptoms of RSV
    Symptoms of the flu
    Symptoms of COVID-19

  • How long will you be contagious? If you're sick today, there's a good chance you'll be contagious on Thanksgiving, regardless of the type of virus. The infectious windows for the viruses highlighted here are as follows:
    • Flu: contagious for 5-7 days after start of symptoms.
    • RSV: contagious for 3-8 days after start of symptoms. Some infants and people with weakened immune systems can spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as 4 weeks.
    • COVID-19: there is evidence that an Omicron infection can last, on average, 8-10 days. Some people will be infectious for less, and some will be infectious for more. You won't know unless you test.1 Follow the CDC's guidance on isolation if you test positive.

  • If you develop symptoms, use an at-home COVID-19 test or visit an OCDPH testing site. If your first test is negative, but you still have symptoms, test again in 24-48 hours. If your test is positive, you should assume you have COVID-19. (Note: at this time, routine testing for RSV and influenza is not recommended, except when ordered by a healthcare provider).  Free at-home COVID-19 test kits are available at testing sites in Coopersville, Holland, Hudsonville and Grand Haven. Many health insurance companies will also provide free at-home test kits. Contact your health insurance company for details.
  • None of us want to miss out on the joy of the holidays, but if you are sick, stay home and avoid close contact with others. Children who are sick should not attend school, daycare or other activities.

  • Get your COVID-19 vaccination or updated booster, as well as your flu shot. Find COVID-19 vaccines at VaccinateWestMi.com. Call your healthcare provider or local pharmacy for the flu vaccine. There is currently no approved vaccine for RSV.  

  • Ventilate your space. Good ventilation can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. Learn more about improving ventilation.

  • Consider taking a COVID-19 at-home test prior to gathering, especially if you are getting together with people who are older, immunocompromised, or at risk for severe illness. 

  • Consider wearing a high quality, well-fitting mask when you travel, or at gatherings, if you or someone at the gathering is at high risk for severe illness (see list in bullet point above).

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially before preparing food. If you are sick, avoid preparing food for others. In addition, clean frequently touched surfaces more often.

By using some care and making a plan ahead of time, you and your loved ones can hopefully enjoy safer holidays this year!

1Your Local Epidemiologist, Thanksgiving Week! Friendly reminder, November 21, 2022

Make a Plan

Choose the Right Kind of Care

county updates

Updated Online:
Communicable Diseases in Ottawa County

October 2022 Report

Ottawa County COVID-19 Data Hub

Ottawa County publishes recent COVID-19 data relating to community transmission, case counts and descriptive statistics. The data hub is updated every weekday from Monday - Friday by 4:00 pm. View Data Hub

Weekly COVID-19 Surveillance Reports can be found on our COVID page

Ottawa County COVID-19 Resources


MDHHS COVID-19 Resources

Vaccine Information I MI Vaccine Locations I FAQs

More COVID-19 Vaccine Information Resources

VaccinateWestMi.com FAQs I Deaf & Hard of Hearing FAQ Videos
CDC COVID-19 FAQs Flyer I CDC FAQ Website

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