‘Tripledemic’ risk increases as winter months inch closer

In the winter of 2022-23, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases were on the rise and coupled with COVID-19 and the flu created what many physicians and public health experts referred to as a ‘tripledemic’ – a trifecta of viral infections causing illnesses, raising the risk of simultaneous infections and additional complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows COVID-19 was associated with approx. 244,000 deaths in the U.S. last year, with the flu season responsible for an additional 19,000 to 58,000 deaths.

And though it’s been common every cold and flu season, RSV made headlines last year as it sent countless patients to seek care in the emergency department with dual infections, particularly those 65 and older. RSV is also the leading cause of lower respiratory tract-related hospitalization in children under age one.

With this year’s winter season just around the corner, and the CDC issuing a Sept. 5 health alert after a rise in RSV cases in the Southwest and a severe flu season forecasted, the country could be looking at the possibility of another ‘tripledemic.’

Complicating the situation further is that all three illnesses present with very similar symptoms: fever, cough, congestion. A test from a health care provider is the only way to achieve a thorough diagnosis.

All three illnesses are viral, meaning vaccination is the most effective prevention method.

While it may not completely prevent these diseases, physicians and public health professionals encourage vaccinations as an effective way to decrease your chances of getting infected, as well as being hospitalized due to complications that may arise from them.

Along with vaccinations, mask wearing, distancing, handwashing and other good hygiene practices, as well as staying home when feeling ill can help prevent the transmission of these viruses.