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Respiratory Virus Guidance

On March 1st, 2024, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised guidelines related to COVID-19 to align with existing guidance for preventing the spread of other respiratory illnesses, such as influenza (flu) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Each year, respiratory viruses are responsible for millions of illnesses and thousands of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States. The good news is there are actions you can take to help protect yourself and others from health risks caused by respiratory viruses. 


It is important to note that the updated guidance is intended for community settings. There are no changes to respiratory virus guidance for healthcare settings. The CDC offers separate, specific guidance for healthcare settings for COVID-19, flu, and general infection prevention and control.

What to do when you’re sick:

When you have a respiratory virus infection, you can spread it to others. How long someone can spread the virus depends on different factors, including how sick they are (severity) and how long their illness lasts (duration). This is not the same for everyone. 

One of the most important things you can do to help prevent the spread of illness is to stay home when you have symptoms of a respiratory virus, such as a fever, cough, runny nose, or sore throat. You are less contagious once your symptoms improve overall and you have not had a fever for at least 24 hours (and are not using fever-reducing mediation). During this time, you may still be able to spread the virus to others. Taking precautions for the next 5 days can help reduce this risk. After 5 days, you are typically much less likely to be contagious. 

Individuals who have risk factors for severe illness should seek health care promptly for testing or treatment; treatment may help lower your risk of severe illness. 



Sick individuals should monitor their symptoms.

If there are emergency warning signs - like trouble breathing or chest pain - seek emergency medical care immediately.

Prevention strategies:

Stay Up-to-Date on Immunizations to reduce the risk of serious illness. MHD offers FREE immunizations to eligible individuals.

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Take steps for cleaner air by bringing in fresh outdoor air, purifying indoor air, or spending time outdoors. 

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Practice Good Hygiene. 
Hygiene is important for protecting yourself and others from respiratory viruses.

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Wear a mask if you are recovering from an illness or are at risk for severe illness to lower the risk of spreading the virus.

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When to use prevention strategies:

All of the prevention strategies described in this guidance can be helpful to reduce risk. They are helpful when:

  • Respiratory viruses are causing a lot of illness in your community. 
    Early in 2024, MHD launched the Wastewater Disease Surveillance Dashboard, a new tool adopted by health departments worldwide. People with COVID-19 release the virus in their waste, ending in wastewater treatment plants. Public health laboratories measure virus levels at collection sites to track changes in COVID-19 cases.
Explore the Wastewater Dashboard 

You may not be aware of the things that can make others more vulnerable to serious illness. Using the core prevention strategies will provide a degree of protection regardless. If you are unsure about the health condition or risk status of those around you, the most protective option is using additional prevention strategies, like masking, physical distancing, and testing.