To get to the question in the email first, the Spanish flu of 1918 did not get its start in Spain. It was in the rallying of American troops to engage alongside allies in Europe in the first World War that we find the origins of the “Spanish flu.” Historical epidemiologists have followed the spread of that flu, and it appears to have been Camp Funston, Kansas, now referred to as Fort Riley, Kansas.
Getting back to this season’s Trifecta, if you’re like a lot of people, you’ve become so tired of COVID, that you are simply tuning it out when the news headlines mention it. And influenza is so common, that we just consider winter to be the flu season…like the seasonal migration of birds from cold to fairer weather. And then we add RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) to the mix and we have a veritable trifecta of microbial assaults facing us. But we can be prepared. Think of it like holiday shopping…you just don’t want to wait until the last minute, because procrastination is like putting out the welcome mat for one of the three viruses.
The national numbers certainly tell us that a lot of people are just done with COVID and the “next COVID vax.” Alas, COVID is not entirely done with us, and having a booster that can reset your immune system to fight the latest evolution of COVID-19 is the smart thing to do if you want to spend time with family. Maybe more accurately, get the next level of COVID vaccine if you want your family to want to spend time with you. And we’ve always …most of us…looked to our primary care providers to direct us to the latest concoctions of likely culprits that will comprise the seasonal flu. Don’t wait, because flu season is indeed upon us.
RSV becomes somewhat more challenging as it tends to be more challenging to the very young and the very old. In fact, one in ten older patients hospitalized with RSV will die from it. If your holiday gatherings will involve very young children or infants or older relatives and friends, RSV precautions should be taken. High risk infants presently have one vaccine option, Synagis, a monthly vaccine from Swedish Orphan Biovitrim. Moderna and Pfizer are on the heels of this short acting vaccine with new mRNA-derived vaccines, but there are no FDA approvals just yet.
I don’t have to ask how many of you are ready to jump back to masking up, but it is the time-tested and proven way to avoid infection. Let’s face it, there will be relatively larger indoor gatherings and family events with the end of year holidays. Confirm that all your guests are feeling well prior to joining your gatherings. Wear masks when not dining or consuming beverages, and keep the air circulating. A little physical distancing will still work as well. And with all these precautions, don’t lose sight of the goal. Have a very healthy and very happy holiday, and a great New Year.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.