Flu, RSV and COVID-19: A winter ‘tripledemic’

Though RSV is waning, flu and COVID-19 cases are on the rise.

After a relatively slow start, cases of influenza have sharply increased with the season nearing its peak as it typically does in December and throughout the winter.

This has coincided with a seasonal rise in COVID-19 cases, increasing hospitalizations across the country to the point that the federal government is again providing free COVID-19 test kits.

The population is still recovering from a nationwide surge of RSV, another viral upper respiratory infection that can affect anyone but can be especially harmful to infants and senior adults. Thankfully those cases are declining, however the virus is still circulating.


A “normal” flu season runs from mid-October until the spring, typically peaking in terms of cases in December through February.

Last flu season held the potential for a “twindemic,” in which there was a serious concern of simultaneous infections of influenza and COVID-19, potentially overwhelming the body’s immune system.

This season, with COVID-19 cases rising toward its expected winter surge, that concern has been further complicated with the flu and unprecedented rise in RSV — the “tripledemic.”

Common symptoms

These viruses can cause many of the same symptoms, leading to confusion and anxiety in anyone experiencing them.

The only way to confirm which virus is causing an illness is through a test by a physician. And although the viruses share several of the same symptoms, there are some that are more common with a particular virus.

While all three viruses cause difficulty breathing, sore throat, runny/stuffy noses and a cough, only flu and COVID-19 lead to fever and chills, headache, body aches, weakness and vomiting.

Loss of taste and smell is only associated with COVID-19.


Medical professionals highly recommend the COVID-19 vaccine and updated bivalent booster. The booster was recently approved for everyone 6 months and older.

It’s also never too late to get the annual flu shot.

Public health professionals maintain theses are the best ways to prepare for the season, offering protection against infection and severe illness for both viruses throughout the entire season.

There is no vaccine for RSV, unfortunately, forcing health officials and medical experts to strongly encourage good hygienic practices — hand washing, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, avoiding sick individuals and enclosed spaces.