The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced the United States is experiencing another wave of respiratory illnesses, with flu hospitalizations reaching their highest level in a decade, COVID-19 cases climbing, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) impacting older adults.

According to CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, hospitalizations for all three illnesses are overwhelming healthcare systems, and colder weather and indoor gatherings are likely contributing factors. She also acknowledged flu vaccination rates are down among older adults. In addition, although various vaccines and antiviral treatments are being studied, a vaccine for RSV does not exist. The risk of adverse outcomes from RSV is especially high among older adults: in the United States each year, it is estimated that between 60,000 to 120,000 older adults are hospitalized and 6,000 to 10,000 die due to RSV infection. With so many illnesses circulating, it’s important for homeless service providers to prepare themselves for how this may impact the older adults they serve.

With homeless shelters as likely sites for transmission of airborne pathogens, managing the spread of infectious diseases remains a challenge. And as many communities return to traditional congregate model shelters and implement their hypothermia programs, people they serve, especially older adults and those with chronic medical conditions, are at increased risk. Therefore, it is even more important that homeless services providers employ infection prevention and control practices. This, according to Dr. Walensky, includes wearing a mask where community viral transmission is high.

Read the full article about preparing for infectious diseases by Yolanda Stevens at National Alliance to End Homelessness.