Q&A: Doctor provides health tips for holiday travel as omicron, flu cases rise

Dr. Timothy Hendrix interviewed by Kirstin O’Connor

ORLANDO, Fla. – As holiday travel ramps up, doctors are urging people to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of influenza and COVID-19.

News 6 health reporter Kirstin O’Connor spoke with Dr. Timothy Hendrix, of AdventHealth Centra Care, about travel safety.

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KIRSTIN: People are still thinking about COVID-19, but what else do we need to consider while we’re planning for family get-togethers?

HENDRIX: Well, there’s plenty of time to prepare right now. So we’ve got several weeks before we get to Christmas time. So now’s the time to get your flu shot if you haven’t got your flu shot because flu season has officially started. We’re seeing more cases of influenza at Centra Care in the last couple of weeks, so go out there and get your flu shot. It takes at least a week or two for it to become effective.

KIRSTIN: What kind of advice do you have for families that are about to take a flight?

HENDRIX: Wearing your mask while you’re in the airport and when you’re in indoors in these public areas. There is a requirement still to wear a mask in the airport and on the on the airplane. But being careful about that and reducing the snacks on the airplane (is important). If you’re one of those people sipping the drink, munching on the plane, you know, you really need to hold off and keep your mask on during the flight because those are areas where you have a higher transmission possibility in these crowded indoor areas.

KIRSTIN: Should people still be getting COVID tests before traveling?

HENDRIX: If you ever have any questions about getting a COVID test, it’s very simple, and it’ll remove any doubts in your mind. But I would recommend if you’re sick, if you’re exposed to COVID, you know, somebody has COVID or if you traveled recently or were in a high-risk situation -- a large group of people -- to go get tested. And at Centra Care, we have the rapid test. We can get you the results in 15 minutes to determine if it is COVID or not. Because a lot of these viruses have very similar symptoms, you know, COVID, flu, and just the common cold, even allergies, you know, runny nose, and the coughing and sneezing, you know, that could also look like COVID. So go get tested, it’s very easy.

Anyone traveling internationally can make an appointment for a COVID test at the Orlando International Airport.

KIRSTIN: Are you starting to see a lot more cases of the flu?

HENDRIX: Yeah, here in Florida, we’ve seen about 300 cases of influenza at Centra Care in our Central Florida Centra Cares. And that’s, you know, 300, 350 per week as comparison in 2019, our last real flu season, so we’re well on the way to a typical flu season.

KIRSTIN: Will the COVID booster be effective by Christmas?

HENDRIX: I think the timing is more important now that you can get that booster in one to two weeks. You’ll start to stimulate those antibodies. And we know after that booster you get such a great robust response of antibodies. And some of the evidence just in the last day or two that Pfizer and the studies are showing that that booster really does give you a good protection against variants like omicron, so now’s the time to get that before we get into these family gatherings.