How to stay healthy at Christmas gatherings

A local infectious disease expert shares tips for a safe gathering this holiday season.

dr Lynora Saxinger, a professor at the University of Alberta, says that despite a number of viruses circulating, people can still gather safely in certain circumstances.


COVID-19 numbers are currently on the decline, but Saxinger says that should still factor into your plans.

“There are still many people hospitalized with COVID infection, but incidents of severe infection are much lower due to a fairly successful rollout of vaccination,” she told CTV News Edmonton.

“If people haven’t had a refresher yet and are eligible, they should definitely get it before they meet up for the holiday because COVID is still actively transmitting, we’re still seeing people getting very sick, people are still dying. ”

If you’re attending an event where there may be a guest who is under-vaccinated, immunocompromised, or has recently received cancer treatments, she suggests a rapid COVID-19 test be performed beforehand.

“Adding that extra layer of protection is also a very useful thing. The COVID numbers aren’t particularly high, but if someone has tested positive and is developing an infection, that could actually avert infection.”


Saxinger says we’re past the peak of an early influenza surge, and she expects the virus to start circulating this holiday season.

“There’s still more cases of influenza to come, so besides shopping or whatever, grocery shopping, people should prepare for the holidays to make sure they’ve gotten their flu shot.”

“Influenza is so miserable that it can put a significant damper on vacations, so it’s worth avoiding.”

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She says anyone six months or older is eligible for the vaccine and suggests getting vaccinated even if you’ve already had the flu this year.

“We don’t know yet if other strains might be in circulation later in the season. Many years from now we will have an influenza A peak and then an influenza B peak.”

Because the two peaks may be different strains of the virus, she says getting vaccinated can save you from catching the flu a second time.


Saxinger said Alberta has experienced fewer severe cases of RSV than other parts of the country, but the virus can still cause serious health problems for children, the immune-compromised and the elderly.

“We had some RSV, but it was kind of influenza dominant, even among the kids. Right now it’s possible that that could shift back to more RSV.”

There is no vaccine for RSV, so Saxinger encourages people to use the same practices they have used during the pandemic to prevent the spread.

“Really paying attention when you have symptoms, staying away from others if you think you might get sick, and good respiratory hygiene, especially if you’re in an indoor area in a mixed crowd, I think is a good idea.” everyone to wear masks.”

While Saxinger acknowledges that people can’t wear masks while eating, she says masking even part of a gathering can help reduce your chances of exposure to a virus.


Saxinger says that with so many viruses circulating, handwashing remains especially important, and as life returns to normal after the pandemic, it’s important to think of others before we head to an event.

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“No matter how much you want to go to the party, if you get sick, you should stay home.”

“If you’re taking all of those steps, I think it’s a really sensible thing for people to come together.”

With files from Katie Chamberlain of CTV News Edmonton.

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