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Respiratory viruses – including the flu, RSV and the virus that causes Covid-19 – are not a serious concern for most of the US public, even though they’re still affecting many, according to new survey data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Nearly 4 out of 10 households (38%) had a recent case of Covid-19, the flu or RSV, according to the survey, with responses collected in mid-January.
About half of adults say that they took some precautionary measures to avoid getting sick amid the winter cold season, including nearly a third (31%) who said they were more likely to wear a mask in public. More than a quarter said they were avoiding large gatherings, and about 1 in 5 said they were traveling less or avoiding indoor dining.
But most are not worried about getting seriously ill from these respiratory viruses, according to the KFF survey.
Concern around Covid-19 is higher than it is for flu or RSV. About a third (31%) of adults say they are worried about getting seriously ill from Covid-19, compared with about a quarter of adults who are worried about getting seriously ill from the flu or RSV.
But that has changed little since January 2022, when the US was at the height of the Omicron surge. And fewer than 3 in 10 adults (28%) have gotten their updated Covid-19 booster shot, according to the KFF survey. (Booster uptake is self-reported on the survey and different from the shot administration data collected by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Groups at higher risk for severe outcomes from Covid-19 – including seniors, people with weakened immune systems and Black and Hispanic adults – were more likely to say that they’ve taken precautionary measures to protect themselves this winter.
Also, Democrats were about twice as likely as Republicans to take these precautionary measures and to have gotten the updated booster shot.
Of adults who have gotten the updated booster, the vast majority say that getting another booster shot is a priority for them. Of those who haven’t gotten the updated booster, about half say they have enough protection from previous shots or a prior infection. Only about 15% say that they haven’t gotten the shot because they think Covid-19 is “over.”
Federal data shows that new hospital admissions for the three respiratory viruses have been trending down for weeks. Despite the decrease, thousands of hospitalizations for Covid-19 and flu were reported last week.
Last month, a panel of independent experts that advises the US Food and Drug Administration on its vaccine decisions voted unanimously to update all Covid-19 vaccines so they contain the same ingredients as the two-strain shots that are now used as booster doses. Overall, data presented to the committee suggested an advantage of the new bivalent shots over the original single-strain shots, convincing even skeptics on the panel of their benefits.