FRIDAY, Jan. 14, 2022 (HealthDay News) — As the Omicron variant rages on in the United States, an expert explains how to lower your risk of getting infected with COVID-19.
Be careful about social activities and consider how much risk you’re willing to accept to get together with others, said Dr. Michael Lin, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. .
“Whenever people gather indoors, there is an inherent risk that the virus will spread,” Lin said in a hospital press release.
You can reduce your risk of infection and serious illness by limiting yourself to small gatherings and ensuring everyone is fully vaccinated and boosted, if eligible.
At indoor gatherings, anyone 2 years of age or older must wear a properly fitted mask. Wearing a mask is especially important if you have a weakened immune system, even if you are vaccinated.
“We know that if you’re immunocompromised, you may not be fully protected even if you’ve had your shots,” Lin said.
It’s also a good idea to take a COVID-19 home test before getting together with others, and anyone with symptoms such as a cough or runny nose should avoid socializing.
The safest way to connect with others is to host a virtual meeting.
If you plan to go to a restaurant, you should:
- Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated places where you cannot socially distance.
- Pick times when there won’t be too many people.
- If it’s too crowded, find another restaurant or opt for take-out.
- Wear a properly fitted mask when not eating or drinking.
- Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.
- Bring your vaccination card and/or keep a copy on your phone if you are in a community that requires customers to show proof that they have been vaccinated.
- Choose your dining companions carefully. Most risks do not necessarily come from diners at other tables, but from those sitting at your table if they belong to other households.
Grocery shopping and other errands tend to be less risky than eating out. If you’re at risk for serious illness, consider going out when stores are least busy, such as early in the morning, Lin suggested.
Travel poses challenges as it is difficult to stay at least 6 feet away from strangers in airports, train stations, planes and trains. You should also assess the risk at your destination. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers county-by-county COVID-19 rates.
Whatever you do, the best protection during the Omicron flare-up is to get vaccinated and boosted, but it’s important to remember that vaccines “are not 100% effective, which is why we are seeing breakthrough infections, especially with the Omicron variant,” Lin mentioned.
“But in general, breakthrough infections are mild for those who are vaccinated, and vaccines do a great job of preventing serious infections and death,” he added.
To learn more about protecting yourself and others from COVID-19, see the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCE: Rush University Medical Center, press release, January 12, 2022
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