In the face of holiday travel and a “tri-demic” of flu, Covid-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) on the Island, health officials are once again urging residents to take caution against the transmission of respiratory illnesses.

To mitigate the spread, board of health officials encouraged residents to stay up-to-date with their annual flu vaccinations and Covid boosters, recommending that Islanders receive their bivalent vaccine as long as they are more than two months out from their last vaccination.

“The two most important things are to stay home if you’re feeling sick and to get vaccinated,” said Martha’s Vineyard Hospital chief nursing and operations officer Claire Seguin. “Even if you feel okay, it’s about protecting those among us who have weakened immune systems, who are immunocompromised or pregnant and making sure they don’t become severely ill.”

Flu season has also arrived earlier than normal, Ms. Seguin confirmed. The hospital has seen an increase of 111 flu cases in the past two weeks, compared to previous years when cases would typically spike in February.

“This is the highest number of flu cases at this time of year we’ve seen since 2010-2011,” she said. “It’s significant.”

By contrast, RSV cases, which first saw a spike among young children earlier this fall, are trending down, Ms. Seguin said.

“I’m happy to say that we do have beds, but we’ve been pretty busy,” she said, noting that out of the hospital’s 25 beds, roughly two to three are empty at any given time.

The hospital is still offering Covid and flu vaccines by appointment, and the MV Vaccine Bus, run out of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, reported over 900 total vaccinations at their past two clinics, Tisbury health agent Maura Valley confirmed.

Ms. Seguin found that while flu vaccine uptake reached significant highs in the past couple years, numbers are slightly down this year.

“I think people are starting to hit a little bit of vaccine fatigue, but they’ll find that [this year’s flu vaccines] really make a difference,” she said. “They’re very effective.”

Health Imperatives, located at the former Family Planning center off State Road, is also offering a $75 gift card to individuals who receive a Covid vaccination by appointment, walk-in or at their upcoming vaccine clinics on Dec. 21 and Dec. 28.

“The program started in the inner cities as a way to promote vaccination and they’ve since expanded it to rural areas, when the Island jumped on the opportunity,” Ms. Valley said. “I think it’s great, especially with cost of living so high. That $75 can really make a difference.”

To keep holiday gatherings safe, officials also recommend using a rapid antigen test before events, available for free in each town hall, library and board of health office. In the event of a Covid exposure, individuals should rapid test starting two days out from exposure, testing every day for a week and isolating if positive.

If an individual contracts Covid, they do not need to go to a hospital right away, officials advise, but they should call their doctor in case of any necessary treatment and report their infection to

With a majority of Covid cases being discovered through at-home testing, spikes are difficult to quantify, both Ms. Seguin and Ms. Valley said, making public awareness all the more important no matter the time of year.

“All we can do is put the information out there and give people the tools they need,” Ms. Valley said. “You may know your own health status but you don’t know everybody else’ could be the difference that saves someone’s life.”