How not to catch or transmit Covid (and flu and bronchiolitis) at Christmas

Here we are again, for the third year in a row, expecting family and friends gatherings at the end of the year to prevent them from becoming a place of contamination, not only by Covid (whose ninth wave has started well) but also by influenza (which seems to have had a strong start this year) and bronchiolitis (the epidemic among young children has been particularly virulent since the end of October).

The challenge is several. Firstly, it’s about not getting infected: nobody wants to get sick on holiday. Above all, catching Covid, even when you are in good health, means exposing yourself to the risk of long-term Covid with sometimes dramatic consequences in terms of quality of life for those affected.

Then it is a matter of not infecting others: for the same reasons, but also because among these others, elderly people, immunocompromised people or even people who have not been vaccinated (because they are too young or unfavorable for vaccination) are particularly vulnerable . to infection.

Finally, it must be remembered that Covid as well as influenza and bronchiolitis are always causes of hospitalization, if not death. In a context of medical and hospital saturation, any serious infection increases the health burden. In other words, to participate in the fight against viral circulation is to demonstrate a form of health solidarity.

Now let’s get started. If you are familiar with the organization of Christmas Eve and Christmas lunches, you know that in order to enjoy the present, it is the preparations that count. With regard to Covid and other diseases, it is the same.

Come on, let’s begin the retro planning.

Preparations: Vaccination

The first thing to do, since vaccination takes fourteen days to be fully effective: go to your doctor or pharmacist to get…

The flu vaccine. Although desirable for everyone, it is highly recommended for:

  • people over 65;
  • pregnant people;
  • people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, COPD;
  • overweight people;
  • those around immunocompromised people or infants.

Booster dose of the Covid vaccine. It’s a bit of a maze there… To summarize:

If you are over 12 and under 60, have no health problems and are not expecting a child, just make sure you have taken the booster dose – the 3e dosage. It is for the principle, because if you want it, it is possible to receive a 4e dose to put a coin back into your immunity machine. In addition, the Minister of Health François Braun confirmed at the microphone on BFMTV on December 4 that “everyone could be vaccinated”, implied: make a 4e dosage. This is very welcome, especially with the bivalent vaccines showing additional efficacy against severe forms of Omicron variant infections currently in circulation.

Otherwise, here are the different scenarios that make you eligible for the 4e dose, even at 5e if you did 4e in the spring (it is necessary to observe a period of three to six months between doses):

  • you are over 60;
  • you live in a home for dependent elderly people (Ehpad) and a long-term care unit (USLD);
  • you are at risk of a severe form of the disease (due to immunosuppression, pregnancy from the 1steh trimester or a chronic pathology);
  • you live near or are in regular contact with immunocompromised or vulnerable people.

Note: it is very possible to make both vaccines, influenza and Covid, at the same time.

Preparations: invitations

Then it’s time to decide with whom and when you will share festive moments. The ideal is to avoid family mixing and large gatherings, New Year’s Eve in small groups is even more than welcome this year.

One option to reduce risks and spend time with a few more people is to do things twice. Take, for example, a couple with a child. He will be able to spend New Year’s Eve on the 24th with one parent’s limited family and then lunch on the 25th with the other parent’s family. (Well, there, we know there are as many options as there are families, and that negotiations aren’t always the simplest or most peaceful, so we’ll let you work it out between yourselves!)

A little reminder too: To limit the risk of brochiolitis in babies, often caused by RSV as well as other respiratory viruses that can go almost unnoticed in adults, it is best to limit baby’s contact with adults outside the foyer. In other words, the more intimate the first Christmas, the better. (Same, we’ll let you negotiate with the grandparents…)

Further preparations on D-10

To avoid the risk of infecting someone on D-day, it is of course best not to get infected yourself. The viruses that concern us here are viruses that are all transmitted in the same way: by droplets and aerosols.

So, if it is obviously impossible to protect yourself 100%, it is possible to effectively reduce the risk by systematically wearing a mask (preferably FFP2) in closed places, especially in public transport, shops (obviously crowded at the moment), at work or school, and avoid gatherings such as concerts or parties. (You have a good excuse to skip your company’s Christmas potluck.)

D-day

The advent calendar’s boxes are almost all open and we will get to the 24th. In the days before, a PCR test should be done in case of symptoms. If it’s positive, it will allow you to isolate yourself immediately and not cancel what you had planned at the last minute.

Then, on the 23rd or better, the 24th, it’s a self-test for everyone. Obviously, positive cases and close contact cases will do better to isolate. It will also be preferable to stay at home (or cancel the festivities if you receive it) in case of symptoms (fever, aches, headache, cough, sore throat, loss of taste and/or smell, runny or stuffy nose ). In fact, not only are the self-tests for detecting Covid-19 not 100% reliable, but these symptoms can also be symptoms of influenza or a winter virus potentially responsible for bronchiolitis.

Once the evening has started, there is not much to do apart from of course venting as much as possible. Sure, it’s cold, but it’s time to pull out your best ugly Christmas sweater and a few minutes will improve the air quality. The most cautious can equip themselves with a CO sensor2: as soon as the counter exceeds 800 ppm, it means that the window must be opened.

Finally, 48-72 hours after the end of the festivities and when you have attended one or more family gatherings, it may be appropriate to get yourself tested in order to isolate yourself if, despite all your efforts, you have been contaminated.

And we’ll do it again on the 31st!

Thanks to Dr. Michaël Rochoy, GP in Outreau, co-founder of the Stop Postillons collectives and on the side of science.

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