NORTHBOROUGH – With the holiday season in full swing, Northborough town staff are giving tips to stay safe.
“Massachusetts is currently seeing increases in respiratory illnesses, resulting in an increase in emergency room visits and longer wait time,” health and fire department staff wrote in a Dec. 7 message.
According to staff, most of the illnesses are caused by respiratory viral infections including the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19.
“I highly recommend being more cautious if possible before the holidays, including wearing masks in large crowds,” said Regional Epidemiologist with Greater Boroughs Partnership for Health Isabella Caruso. “The flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine/boosters are our number one way to prevent severe illness and hospitalizations.”
This year’s flu vaccine, she said, appears to be a good match against the current strain of the flu.
According to the most recent information from the state Department of Public Health, the current estimated severity of the flu is very high.
Caruso and Dr. Safdar Medina – who is a Southborough resident, pediatrician and member of the Public Schools of Northborough and Southborough Medical Advisory Team – recently did a public service announcement on RSV for Northborough Cable.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RSV symptoms include runny nose, decrease in appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever and wheezing. The CDC said most patients recover in one to two weeks, but it could be serious for infants and older people.
Medina said RSV typically occurs every year in the late fall through early spring.
“Once safety measures were relaxed in the spring of 2021, we started to see a rise in RSV and other seasonal respiratory illnesses back in the spring,” Medina said. “Of course now we’ve seen an early resurgence in the fall.”
In the notice from the town, staff said the fire department had eight pediatric transportations for respiratory-related illnesses.
The schools have also seen an increase in respiratory illnesses. In the schools, staff are encouraging hand hygiene and cough technique and promoting ventilation and continuing with enhanced disinfection of high-touch surfaces.
The district is asking that families continue to monitor for symptoms before their child comes to school, wearing a mask if symptomatic and reinforcing hand hygiene and cough etiquette.
The town also suggested that residents avoid social gatherings, daycare or school if their kids are sick. Further, they suggested that parents and caregivers contact a pediatrician or healthcare provider in non-emergency situations if either themselves or their child needs care.
Caruso suggested that community members consider taking an antigen test before attending holiday events to reduce the spread of infection.