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Many Americans underestimate the threat of respiratory virus season

As we get deeper into the respiratory virus season, a recent survey has exposed a concerning trend among Americans.

Despite warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the potential dangers of this year’s respiratory viruses, a significant portion of the population seems to be underestimating the threat. 

About one-third of Americans surveyed expressed a lack of concern, highlighting a gap in public awareness and readiness.

Vaccine decisions 

The survey’s findings are particularly striking given that 87% of respondents claim to take all possible measures to prevent the spread of seasonal viruses. 

However, a disconnect emerges as one-third of these individuals believe their personal vaccine decisions do not impact others. This group also feels that they do not need vaccinations for flu or COVID-19 if they are not in a high-risk category.

Life-changing disease

Dr. Megan Conroy is a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and a clinical assistant professor in the College of Medicine. She emphasized the severity of respiratory viruses. 

“Unfortunately, respiratory viruses can cause really severe and life-changing disease for some people, even among the young and very healthy,” said Dr. Conroy.

“The best way to help prevent a virus from really upending your life or others is to get vaccinated. Our vaccines are safe and very effective in preventing you from getting very sick and that’s an important outcome.”

More hospitalizations expected this year

The healthcare system is under additional strain with the emergence of COVID-19, which has joined the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as a seasonal respiratory virus. The CDC anticipates a higher number of hospitalizations this year compared to pre-pandemic seasons. 

“Unfortunately, the flu kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. We get an idea of how bad a respiratory illness season the U.S. will have by looking at what happened in the southern hemisphere where flu season is during our summer,” said Dr. Conroy.

“Australia had almost a record setting influenza season. That’s concerning and a sign that we may have higher flu numbers than average and certainly higher than in recent years since universal masking has gone by the wayside.”

Vaccination recommendations 

Flu and COVID

It is recommended that everyone aged 6 months and older receive both flu and COVID-19 vaccines every season, with a few exceptions. 

These vaccines can be administered simultaneously, and research is ongoing to potentially combine them into a single shot.


For RSV, vaccination is recommended from September to January for adults aged 60 and over, and for pregnant women during weeks 32 to 36 of their pregnancy. 

There is a new form of protection for babies in their first RSV season. It involves an immunization with a protein that acts like antibodies. This is not a traditional vaccine but is designed to offer protection against RSV, which can lead to bronchiolitis and pneumonia.


A pneumonia vaccination is advised for adults aged 65 and over, children under 5 years of age, and also for individuals with increased risk due to chronic heart or lung diseases or weakened immune systems.

Keep your guard up

“Whenever we have more virus in the community, it’s likely that we’ll also see more bacterial and viral pneumonia, and it can cause severe illness in people of all ages,” said Dr. Conroy. 

“Keeping your guard up about respiratory illnesses is important because they’re going to be here every year. There are so many things you can do to mitigate the spread of viruses.” 

“Get your vaccination, stay home if you’re sick, avoid those who are sick and wear a mask if you’re going out and not feeling well. All of these things can help prevent you from getting sick or spreading it to others.”

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