Officials at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital are warning of the potential for respiratory illnesses as the Island heads into the heart of fall. 

Covid-19, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, known as RSV, can all flare up as the weather cools and people head indoors. In a press conference Wednesday, hospital leaders urged people to get their vaccines updated. 

“Making predictions about when they’re likely to start circulating, or how severe the season will be is very challenging. We don’t have a crystal ball,” said Claire Seguin, the hospital’s chief nurse and vice president of operations. “I can say that in the fall of 2022, in particular, we had a very severe and early RSV season with a large impact, especially on the pediatric population.” 

Ms. Seguin anticipated an uptick in respiratory illnesses around Thanksgiving, but said reported cases of the flu and RSV are currently low. A Covid-19 spike from the end of the summer has also come down.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, is forecasting a similar number of hospitalizations this year when compared to last season. From October 2022 to September 2023, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital saw 139 cases of Covid, 48 cases of RSV.

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, but can be serious for infants and older adults.

Vaccinations remain a critical tool to protect against these diseases, said Dr. Ellen McMahon. She encouraged people to get an annual flu shot and the updated Covid vaccine. There are two new RSV vaccines, including one for people over 60 and those who are pregnant, as well as an antibody prophylactic treatment for newborns and high risk older infants and toddlers. 

“The single best way to prevent flu and to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization is to get an annual flu vaccine,” said Dr. McMahon. “ When you get vaccinated, you also protect people around you who are at higher risk for complications from the flu.” 

People who receive care through the hospital can sign up for both vaccines through the hospital’s online portal or by calling the hospital call center. Hospital officials suggested patients who get care elsewhere to contact retail pharmacies and community clinics for vaccine appointments. 

Vaccines generally have no out-of-pocket costs at the hospital, Ms. Seguin said.