Infectious disease experts and doctors are expecting a tough winter of flu, Covid, and RSV cases. They’re calling this a ‘tripledemic’ of respiratory illnesses.
Flu cases across the country are already higher than usual. Australia and New Zealand had bad flu seasons. And those two countries are typically a good forecast for how flu will impact the U.S. Additionally, the U.S. has not had much of a flu season the last two years, so there are many young children who have never been exposed. Experts are worried that it will be a particularly bad year for flu.
Covid rates have been fairly low this fall. Especially as the surge of Omicron variant cases declines. But two new variants are currently causing a rise in Covid cases in Europe. And just as Australia and New Zealand are used to predict flu season, Europe is a good predictor for Covid cases in the U.S. The variants do not seem to cause more severe symptoms. But they do seem to be able to infect more people, even those who have had the vaccine or a previous Covid infection.
RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, typically causes mild, cold symptoms. It can be serious, however, especially in older adults and children. RSV is the main cause of pneumonia in children under the age of 1 in the U.S. Pediatric hospitals have been nearly full this fall with children fighting RSV infections.
While vaccines for flu and Covid do not always prevent infections, they do drastically reduce the chance of severe illness and death. Public health officials are urging at-risk individuals – those who are immunocompromised, pregnant women, the elderly, and young children – to get vaccinated.
Currently, there is no vaccine for RSV, but some are in trials.
Beyond vaccines, wearing a mask if possible, frequent hand washing, and staying home when sick – again, if possible – remain effective at stopping the spread of these diseases.
In most cases, infections with these three viruses will be mild. But it is possible that there will be so many infections that hospitals are overwhelmed. As a public health training provider, we urge people to take proper precautions to prevent the spread of any diseases.
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