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Will We Have a Tripledemic This Year? Health Officials Are Concerned

In a tripledemic with high rates of flu, COVID and RSV cases, hospital emergency departments may have trouble coping.

With the flu season in full swing, some public health experts are concerned about the possibility of a tripledemic. In such a scenario, three different respiratory viruses circulate at the same time—influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and SARS-CoV-2.

Each of them can put people in the hospital, and very young children are particularly vulnerable. Some pediatric emergency rooms are already overwhelmed. Both the flu and RSV can also make older adults dangerously ill.

Why a Tripledemic?

The flu season has started especially early this year. In addition, cases of RSV are nearing peak levels in many parts of the country. Consequently, if and when cases of COVID-19 start to climb, emergency departments may have great difficulty providing care to everyone who needs it. As mentioned above, some hospitals are already under stress.

Avoiding Catastrophe:

Precautions can interrupt viral transmission, so we still have a chance to avoid a tripledemic. However, that will work only if enough people observe measures such as scrupulous hand washing, wearing N95 masks in public places and staying home when they have symptoms. Officials also urge us to keep our vaccinations up to date. That is good advice, although currently there is no vaccine against RSV.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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