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Disease expert says common sense should make a comeback this holiday season

People wearing protective masks shop for clothing at a store on Fisherman's Wharf .
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The flu, COVID-19 and RSV are spreading. On "South Florida Roundup," Cleveland Clinic Weston’s head of infectious diseases, Dr. Carla McWillams, has some tips to stay healthy.

Flu cases are on the rise in many Florida counties. COVID-19 cases are up, too, according to state health department. For the third consecutive year, viruses may play a part in holiday gatherings.

So before getting on a plane or going to a party, health officials are urging people to be safe.

But precautions taken during the early part of the COVID pandemic have all but disappeared. On the latest "South Florida Roundup," Cleveland Clinic Weston’s head of infectious diseases, Dr. Carla McWillams, said that could be to blame for the uptick in respiratory viruses.

“We're out and about and gathering,” she said. “Respiratory illnesses do spread easily from person to person in this fashion. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us were indoors. And when we did go outdoors, we were wearing masks universally. So, that led to a more mild flu season in prior years.”

McWilliams is urging people to use common sense when making holiday plans.

“I think we need to just be smart,” she said. “So, if someone in the family is not feeling well or is feeling like they're coming down with something, don't go to the big family dinner.

"Or, if you do go, make sure you stay far away from everyone and wear a mask as the best protection for others. So, I think we need to just employ those strategies to protect those who are around us.”

After months of pandemic fatigue from social distancing and mask wearing, it may be time to dust off the mask and put it back on, if you plan to travel or attend parties or holiday events, McWilliams said, That’s an appropriate option for some people with underlying medical conditions.

I do think that for folks who are significantly at risk of more severe disease, even when fully vaccinated, that [we need] to be wise,” she cautioned.

“So, wearing a mask, if you go into a crowded indoor space and you don't know what everyone's status is, is probably a good idea. If you just had an organ transplant or you're on chemotherapy as a means to protect yourself.”

Click on the Listen button above to hear "South Florida Roundup." The interview with McWilliams begins at the 20:00 mark.

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Denise Royal