A ‘tripledemic’ of Covid, flu and RSV this winter could be on the horizon, health officials have warned.
While the spread of the respiratory viruses is low at the moment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has started to see an uptick in positive Covid tests and Covid-related emergency department visits. Covid hospitalizations are also rising.
Flu activity, although currently low, is ‘likely to increase over the fall and winter,’ the CDC said in an update posted yesterday. The same goes for RSV, it said.
And for the first time, people can get vaccinated against all three viruses, which public health officials are urging people do to avoid another tripledemic like last year’s when hospitals were inundated.
Doctors hope enough people get vaccinated to help avert another ‘tripledemic’ like last year when hospitals were overwhelmed with an early flu season, an onslaught of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, and yet another winter coronavirus surge.
RSV infections cause about two million doctor visits, 80,000 hospitalizations and up to 300 deaths in children under five every year, according to the CDC
Covid hospitalizations have been rising since late summer, although — thanks to some lasting immunity from prior vaccinations and infections — not nearly as much as this time last year
Flu activity, although currently low, is ‘likely to increase over the fall and winter,’ the CDC said in an update posted yesterday
The majority of Americans only need to think about whether they should get the updated Covid vaccine and a flu shot, as they are available to almost everyone.
Around 76.5 million adults aged 60 and older are also eligible for a new RSV vaccine made by Pfizer or GSK.
Last year, many pediatric and adult hospitals were completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tripledemic infections.
The surge not only occurred at a higher rate but also well ahead of the typical seasonal spike.
It was the worst flu season America has suffered since the swine flu pandemic of 2009. At one point in December 2022, hospitals were more full than they had ever been during the pandemic due to co-infections.
One boy in Ohio was hospitalized in October 2022 after catching three respiratory viruses at once.
Wilder Jackson, two, from Middletown – just 30 miles north of Cincinnati – was simultaneously battling rhinovirus, enterovirus and adenovirus.
The three common cold viruses became increasingly severe for children post-lockdown, after social restrictions left many with weakened immune systems.
Wilder Jackson, 2, of Middletown, Ohio, was hospitalized after simultaneously being infected with rhinovirus, enterovirus and adenovirus
Experts pointed to lockdowns, mask mandates and other pandemic orders over the past two years as reasons why this year’s flu season has been more brutal than those past.
The flu does not present danger to a majority of Americans, but it can often strike down the elderly, young children and the immunocompromised.
RSV does not pose much danger to adults but can cause severe illness or even death in young children.
RSV infections cause about two million doctor visits, 80,000 hospitalizations and up to 300 deaths in children under five every year, according to the CDC.
Officials report that around 300 to 500 children will die from the virus each year.
Around a third of the population will get RSV in any season, but for most adults, it won’t be anything more serious than cold-like symptoms.
The CDC approved updated vaccines Tuesday to tackle new variants, such as Eris and BA.2.86, which are behind the uptick in US Covid cases and hospitalizations.
Even Americans who have never had a Covid shot are eligible for the new booster.
But appetite for more Covid vaccines is dwindling. Nearly six in 10 Americans over 65 years old failed to get last year’s bivalent booster shot, and experts think even fewer will come forward once the newly formulated Covid vaccines are rolled out.
Covid hospitalizations have been rising since late summer, although — thanks to some lasting immunity from prior vaccinations and infections — not nearly as much as this time last year.
Data from the CDC showed 18,871 patients admitted to hospitals nationwide in the last week of August, up nine percent on the previous seven-day spell.
Despite the rise, rates remain at historic lows. For comparison, there were 150,000 Covid admissions per week at the height of the pandemic in January 2021, and hospitalizations reached as high as 44,000 a week earlier this year.
But protection wanes over time, and the coronavirus continually churns out new variants that can dodge prior immunity.
In addition, testing for Covid has been largely scrapped, while flu and RSV are not regularly tested for.
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