Should I skip Thanksgiving if I feel sick?

By Rose Hoban

The number of travelers on the move for the Thanksgiving holiday is up with airports expected to screen as many as 2.5 million passengers nationwide today, and possibly surpass that number on Sunday, Nov. 27, according to the federal Transportation Security Administration.

“We expect to be busier this year than last year at this time, and probably very close to pre-pandemic levels,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We are prepared to handle the projected increase in travel volumes.”

People are eager to get back to their holiday rituals after years of pandemic restrictions, but what happens if just as the holiday approaches, you find yourself sneezing, sniffling, coughing and maybe even testing positive for a COVID-19 infection? 

“The name of the game for the last couple of years has been COVID, COVID, COVID. And now there’s a lot less masking and a lot less distancing,” said Laura Murray, an intensive care medicine specialist from the Cone Health Medical Group in Greensboro. “People are, you know, rejoicing and being in public together, maybe not being as careful about covering coughs or masking.”

At this point in the pandemic, the worry is likely not so much about COVID, but about the other respiratory viruses that have been circulating with a vengeance. For older friends and family, or people who are immunocompromised, flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) are real dangers.

If you’re sick this week, it’s likely that you’ll be sick on turkey day. So, the question becomes, should you stay at home? Or go? And if you go, how should you act?  

A surge in RSV, flu

Pulmonologist Brad Drummond who works at the main UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill said there’s a steady trickle of coronavirus cases in the intensive care unit, but it’s only one or two beds out of 30. 

“During the Delta wave, it was ‘you’re young and healthy and sick as stink,’” he told NC Health News last week. “The COVID that’s being admitted now is ‘you’re on chemo or have chronic immunocompromised condition.’”

Instead, it’s Flu A that’s making people sick. To him, it felt like it was doubling every week. 

He’s not far off. Positive flu tests went from being about two percent positive  reported to North Carolina’s hospital-based surveillance network in the beginning of October to being 27 percent positive in the week ending Nov. 12. 

“Not all of

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