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Protect Yourself during Respiratory Disease Season

October 20, 2023

The season of respiratory illnesses is upon us, and this week state public health leaders and health care providers are calling on everyone to take action to protect their health.

On Thursday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and local health care providers encouraged vaccinations heading into respiratory disease season.

“Right now is the best time to receive the flu, COVID, and RSV vaccine to help prevent a potential surge in respiratory infections and keep our communities safer,” Dr. Michael R. Ripchinski, chief physician executive at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital, said during a news conference this week.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Flu and RSV:  Per state statistics, flu activity remains low. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) has been increasing slightly. Emergency department visits for both viruses remain low.
  • COVID-19: New hospital admissions have remained steady in recent weeks, but the percentage of emergency department visits with a COVID-19 diagnosis statewide for all ages is decreasing.
  • Vaccines:  The flu and COVID-19 vaccinations have been updated to protect against new virus variants.
    • Vaccinations are especially important for high-risk groups.
  • New this year:  An RSV vaccine is available for people 60 years and older and residents in their third trimester of pregnancy.
    • Residents interested in getting vaccinated for RSV should contact their health care provider to determine eligibility and availability.
    • For infants in their first winter season there is also an RSV immunization available.
  • Quotable:   “Vaccination not only protects you but also helps to reduce transmission and protects the most vulnerable individuals in our community,” Dr. Ripchinski said.

Additional information about access to vaccines is available online. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recently launched a respiratory virus dashboard that summarizes the current spread of three viruses.