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Take steps to reduce risk of respiratory illnesses this holiday season

November 23, 2022 - Public Health - Awareness

SANTA FE – The New Mexico Department of Health (DOH) urges New Mexicans to take precautions this holiday season to protect young children, older individuals and those with underlying conditions from respiratory viruses like RSV, flu and COVID-19. Area hospitals have activated emergency operations as they are experiencing a surge in pediatric illness. 

“People can take simple steps to avoid exposure as we all look forward to gathering with friends and family this holiday season,” said David R. Scrase M.D, acting Department of Health cabinet secretary. “I encourage all New Mexicans to embrace common sense measures we know are effective at reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses. Stay up-to-date on vaccines, including COVID-19 boosters and flu shots, wash your hands, stay home if you’re ill and seek treatment from your primary care provider.” 

RSV, flu and COVID-19 can be especially dangerous for very young children, older New Mexicans and those with underlying conditions. 

DOH offers the following tips for staying healthy and avoiding unnecessary hospital visits during the holidays: 

  • Get a flu shot and stay up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations, including Omicron boosters. 
  • There is no vaccine or treatment for RSV, but people can protect themselves by covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning high-touch services, and regularly washing their hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer. 
  • Anyone at risk for getting severely ill from RSV should consider wearing a mask indoors with people who are not in their household. 
  • Test before you turkey. Taking a test on Thanksgiving Day can help everyone get rid of some COVID anxiety.  
  • If you’re sick, stay home. If you test positive, or don’t test but have symptoms that seem like COVID, you should stay home to avoid getting anyone else sick. Think about arranging to join on Zoom or Facetime if you feel well enough.  
  • Watch for any new symptoms.  The most common reported symptoms from the Omicron variant have been sore throat, congestion (runny, stuffy nose), coughing, fatigue, headaches and muscle pain. If you develop these, take a test. Ventilate your space. This advice still holds true 2+ years into the pandemic. Outdoors is best. Heat lamps, fire-pits, and warm layers can help to make celebrations outside cozy and comfortable. If that’s not for your group, crack the windows–even a little keeps air circulating. HEPA filters can also help to trap some of the virus particles that could be in the air, making you safer. 
  • Mask when you travel. Keep a high-quality (K95 or KN95), well-fitted mask on when traveling.  


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