What To Know About RSV And Other Respiratory Viruses From Harlem To Hollis

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), flu and COVID-19 activity are increasing in New York City.

Young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to these diseases. People with symptoms of respiratory illness – including cough, congestion and other signs of a cold – should contact their health care provider to find out how and where to seek care. Getting young children seen by a provider early can prevent worsening illness and potential hospitalization. In the case of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.

The best protection against seasonal illness continues to be COVID-19 vaccination for everyone ages six months or older, updated bivalent COVID-19 boosters for people ages five-and-older, and the annual flu shot for everyone 6 months and older.

“With so many preventive measures in place over the past two and a half years due to COVID-19, we have been less exposed to many seasonal illnesses compared to pre-pandemic,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan. “That means these viruses are circulating earlier and getting more people sick. The best protection is to get your flu shot and bivalent COVID booster right away, and to wear a mask in crowded public indoor settings. You should also stay home when sick to protect others from getting sick. Additionally, we can stick to the tried-and-true disease prevention measures, like handwashing and avoiding contact with others, especially children, when we’re not feeling well.”

“As a parent, it can be scary to see your child get sick,” said NYC Health + Hospitals Senior Vice President for Ambulatory Care and Population Health Ted Long, MD, MHS. “Most kids will recover from RSV on their own, but if your child has trouble breathing, fevers, or other concerning symptoms, contact your doctor or call NYC Health + Hospitals’ Virtual ExpressCare to talk to a clinician in minutes.”

Almost all children get RSV before age 2. For most children, RSV will cause mild cold-like symptoms and can be treated at home. For infants and young children with certain underlying health conditions who are at high risk for severe RSV infection, such as those born premature or who require oxygen at home, parents should talk to their pediatrician today about a medication their baby can take to prevent RSV infections.  

During this busy time for pediatricians, parents may want to consider telehealth appointments for non-emergency cases to protect their child from additional viruses and to speak to a doctor quickly. NYC Health + Hospitals’ Virtual ExpressCare can connect a patient to a healthcare provider in minutes, and the service is available 24/7 in over 200 languages. Patients can access Virtual ExpressCare by going to expresscare.nyc or calling 631-EXP-Care (631-397-2273).

Many pharmacies and doctors’ offices offer both flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and it is safe to get them at the same time. To find a nearby COVID-19 and flu vaccination provider, visit vaccinefinder.nyc.gov/ or contact NYC Health + Hospitals at 1-844-NYC-4NYC (844-692-4692) to schedule an appointment with a primary care provider who can offer your child vaccines.

The Health Department posts flu and RSV data on its surveillance summary webpage: Influenza Surveillance – NYC Health.

The Health Department’s COVID data is available here: COVID-19: Latest Data – NYC Health.

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"The Clark Legacy Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark and their work," this post is made in partnership with Harlem Cultural Archives, get more at Harlem History.

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