Will County Health Department Encourages Residents To Stay Safe From Respiratory Illnesses This Holiday Season

The Will County Health Department is reminding residents to take precautions to avoid getting sick from respiratory viruses during the holiday season. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recently announced that respiratory illnesses such as Flu, RSV and COVID-19 are on the rise throughout the state.

“It is expected that all respiratory pathogens related ER visits, physician visits, and hospitalizations will rise and will continue to rise during the winter months,” said Alpesh Patel, Chief Epidemiologist for the Will County Health Department. “With upcoming holiday travel and gatherings and lower flu and COVID-19 immunizations numbers than we’d like to see, it’s expected that we’ll see a surge in respiratory illnesses in the following weeks.”

While Will County currently remains in the low category of COVID-19 hospitalizations according to the CDC, there are simple precautions residents can take to protect themselves during the holiday season.

  • Get tested and stay home if you’re sick. Those that are feeling symptoms of a respiratory virus such as coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose or fever, should stay home and avoid contact with others until fully recovered, this includes being fever free for at least 24 hours with fever-reducing medication. Getting tested and knowing what illness you have also helps determine what treatments are available. Free COVID-19 tests are available at covidtests.gov
  • Get vaccinated. Make sure you or your loved ones have the latest vaccinations for the flu, COVID-19 and RSV. Contact your primary care provider or contact the Will County Immunization Clinic at 815-740-8143.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes. Covering your cough and sneezes helps avoid spreading respiratory droplets. Use your elbow, upper shirt sleeve or tissue, not your hands.
  • Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol based sanitizer. During holiday parties or communal dining, avoid touching utensils that are frequently handed by others.
  • Improve airflow and ventilation. In large holiday gatherings, opening doors or windows to bring in fresh air, using a portable air cleaner and turning on exhaust fans are just some ways to increase airflow and ventilation.
  • Choose to wear a mask. Wearing a mask may help reduce the amount of germs you breath in and can also help protect others if you are sick. Masks are encouraged when in large crowds, such as at an airport or if you or a loved one you are visiting are immunocompromised, have an underlying condition or are more at-risk for complications if they get sick. Of note, cloth masks are considered to be the least effective. Be advised that some healthcare facilities and long-term care facilities may be implementing additional mitigation efforts to control the spread of respiratory illnesses.

Both IDPH and the CDC have surveillance dashboards dealing with respiratory illnesses that allow the general public to see weekly updates on flu, COVID-19 and RSV.

IDPH Infectious Respiratory Disease Surveillance Dashboard link: https://dph.illinois.gov/topics-services/diseases-and-conditions/respiratory-disease/surveillance/respiratory-disease-report.html

CDC National Respiratory Virus Dashboard link: https://static.prototype.cdc.gov/respiratory-viruses/index.html