As the community transitions into the fall season, officials with the Los Alamos County’s Social Services division urge citizens to remain vigilant and take proactive measures to protect themselves and their loved ones from the ongoing threats of influenza (flu), COVID-19 and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
Taking protective steps goes a long way in keeping kids in school, seniors active in the community, businesses open to the public and everyone able to enjoy the coming holiday seasons.
Flu Season Approaches: Get Vaccinated
The flu season typically coincides with the fall and winter months. To reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent complications, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorses the flu vaccine for anyone six months or older. This is especially true for children under five and citizens over 65.
This year, Los Alamos Medical Center (LAMC) will host a free drive-thru flu vaccine clinic at the hospital Saturday, Sept. 30, for people 18 or older. Attendees are asked to arrive between 8 a.m. and noon at LAMC (3917 West Road) and to follow the signage and instructions. Vaccines are also available at local pharmacies or through one’s medical care provider.
COVID-19 Remains a Concern: Continue Following Guidelines
While there are several tools available to citizens to protect against and treat COVID-19, new variants remain a concern nationwide. Los Alamos County’s wastewater surveillance data shows the underlying SARS-CoV-2 disease burden is slightly increasing, therefore county officials recommend individuals follow the August 2023 CDC guidelines.
- Staying home when sick;
- Testing for COVID-19 if symptoms are present;
- Seeking treatment if positive for COVID-19 and at high risk of getting very sick;
- Wearing high-quality masks that fit well over the nose and mouth, if desired;
- Improving ventilation in the workplace and at home; and
- Washing hands frequently.
Individuals can request free COVID-19 tests and virtual treatment, no insurance required, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by registering for the Home Test To Treat Program supported by the UMass Chan Medical School, eMed, National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR). Rapid COVID-19 tests may also be purchased at local pharmacies, grocery stores, and available through some medical offices, and at some Department of Health offices.
According to the CDC, an updated booster of the COVID-19 vaccine should become available to the public in mid-September. Individuals eligible for the booster should consider scheduling an appointment to enhance immunity.
RSV Warning: Protect Vulnerable Populations
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) infection is a common respiratory virus that causes severe illness, especially in infants and adults over 75 and individuals with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or chronic lung disease. Parents and caregivers should be vigilant and take extra precautions to protect vulnerable populations by washing hands frequently, keeping surfaces clean and limiting contact with sick individuals to reduce the risk of RSV transmission.
Last May, the Food and Drug Administration approved an RSV vaccine for those over 60, and in July, a monoclonal antibody treatment (Beyfortus) for infants under eight months and high-risk infants between eight and 19 months. For additional information, county officials recommend speaking to a physician.
General Health and Safety Measures
Regardless of the specific virus, county officials say the following general health and safety measures help:
Wear Masks: Wearing masks adds an additional layer of protection in crowded or indoor settings and should be considered, especially if individuals are ill, suspect they are ill, or are vulnerable to becoming extremely ill if infected.
Practice Hand Hygiene: Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds will reduce the potential spread of viruses. Hand sanitizer can be substituted when soap and water are not available.
Seek Medical Care: Seek medical care promptly if one experiences symptoms of illness, such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.
County officials indicate that fall can be challenging, but community members can remain healthy by vigilantly following recommended safety measures. Plans are in the works to address the needs of other vulnerable populations, including older adults, and people who are homebound. As these plans are finalized, they will be widely distributed to the community.
For additional information, contact Social Services at 505.662.8068 or [email protected].