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Holiday crowds & health concerns: Jax doctors see flu, RSV rise ahead of Thanksgiving

As travel ramps up to 2019-sized crowds, we are talking to doctors about how to prevent illness during the holiday.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Let the holiday travel chaos begin! Jacksonville International Airport is expecting more than 10,000 passengers flying out of JIA a day, which means the usually easy-to-navigate airport is going to slow down a bit. 

That also means a lot of people in close quarters. 

Let’s not take for granted the fact that people from all over are gathering together. TSA travel numbers show more people are traveling than 2019, as of the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

There are steps you’ll want to take now and during your trip to make sure you aren’t sick when you arrive home.

”I’m traveling tonight actually!,' said Dr. Shalika Katugaha. "My first time on a plane in 2.5 years. I’m very excited.”

As people are zooming through the airport to catch their flights, I’m catching up with two local doctors on Zoom before they’re off for the week.

“I’m just really happy to be doing something at home,' said Dr. Chirag Patel. "We are going to keep it small. We’re going to keep it simple and I really need that so I’m happy.”

Dr. Katugaha is with Baptist Health Jacksonville. She says she’s seeing a high number flu cases in adults and kids, as well as RSV. The CDC’s data says they’re seeing flu activity elevated across the country.

“As we take the masks off and we gather, that lets respiratory viruses spread as well," Katugaha explained. "Other reasons are because we haven’t been out in the world for the past two years as a community, we have a little bit less immunity against flu and RSV and actually the flu vaccines, the number of people getting them are lagging behind previous years.”

UF Health Jacksonville’s Dr. Patel warns not to overpack your body with booze and sugar this week.

“If your body is so focused on tackling things like overeating and processing alcohol, it’s going to have less of an ability to fight off infections," Patel explained.

Also he advises to avoid vaping or smoking over the holidays. He says it makes your lungs more sensitive to viral illnesses.

Both say don’t underestimate the power of sleep. Katugaha says when you get home from your travels, rest up! Get back to your normal routine with healthier food and exercise and add some vitamin C to your daily routine to keep you in good health.

Don’t let this information kill your holiday vibe. Think of it as a heads up as you head out.

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