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- These illnesses have similar symptoms and are spread in similar ways.
- The CDC advises that respiratory infections are a common reason for seeking medical care among travelers and recommends wearing masks to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.
- Masks should be worn consistently in crowded and enclosed settings, including airports, airplanes, and public transportation.
- The CDC specifically advises wearing masks in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, when there are high levels of respiratory disease at the travel destination or in the community, when you or someone you have close contact with has a weakened immune system or is at increased risk for severe illness, when you are sick or experiencing respiratory illness symptoms, or if you were exposed to a person with COVID-19 in the last 10 days.
- Wearing masks during travel can also help protect vulnerable individuals, such as babies under 6 months, persons over 65 years, or those with a weakened immune system.
The “tridemic” of respiratory illnesses includes influenza, COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
You may have heard of the scary “tridemic” of respiratory illnesses—the triple combination of influenza, COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)—circulating right now. The three illnesses have similar symptoms, and are spread in similar ways. For anyone traveling via airplane, exposure to these illnesses pose their own specific risks, According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Respiratory infections are a leading cause for seeking medical care among returning travelers. Common respiratory infections include COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold,” the CDC advises. “Masking is a critical public health tool for preventing the spread of respiratory diseases.”
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But what are the differences between these respiratory illnesses? When should we be masking while traveling? Thrillist spoke to registered respiratory therapist Mandy De Vries, MSc., RRT, RRT-NPS, and vice president of education for the American Association for Respiratory Care to answer these questions and more.
Should we be wearing masks when traveling? If so, when?
“Yes, wearing masks during travel is advised, especially in crowded and enclosed settings, to minimize the spread of respiratory viruses. Masks should be worn consistently, including in airports, airplanes, and public transportation,” De Vries said.
The CDC specifically advises to wear a mask in these circumstances:
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“Wearing a mask during travel can also help protect others who cannot avoid being in crowded places when they are traveling,” the CDC states. “Some of these people might be more vulnerable, like babies under 6 months of age, persons over 65 years of age, or those with a weakened immune system.”
What are the differences between the three main respiratory illnesses circulating right now?
“The main respiratory illnesses circulating currently are influenza (flu), COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV),” explains Mandy De Vries. “While they may share similar symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, there are some key differences.”
De Vries goes on to explain that influenza is caused by the influenza virus, COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and RSV is caused by the Respiratory Syncytial Virus. Influenza and COVID-19 can both cause severe illness and have the potential to lead to hospitalization and death, while RSV is more common in young children and can cause bronchiolitis and pneumonia.
In terms of transmission, influenza and COVID-19 are primarily spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. RSV, on the other hand, can spread through respiratory droplets as well as by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus.
While all three illnesses can be serious, COVID-19 has been particularly concerning due to its higher rates of severe illness and its ability to spread rapidly. Vaccines are available for influenza and COVID-19, but there is currently no vaccine for RSV.
Given the similarities and differences between these respiratory illnesses, it is important to follow public health guidelines, including wearing masks, practicing good hand hygiene, and getting vaccinated. By taking these precautions, we can help protect ourselves and others from the tridemic of respiratory illnesses circulating right now.
Sources:ThrillistCenters for Disease Control and Prevention