The Triple Epidemic of 2023: RSV, The Flu, and COVID
Unfortunately, the triple epidemic that occurred last year is already happening again. This so-called “tripledemic” is probably something you’re already aware of and might even be tired of hearing about. But knowing what it is and how to stay healthy is just as important this year as it was in the previous ones.
Like before, this year’s triple epidemic involves three now common fall and winter viruses: RSV, the flu, and COVID-19.
Here’s why it keeps happening and what you need to know!
What is a Triple Epidemic?
An epidemic is “an outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time” within a specific area.
The difference between an epidemic and a pandemic is that a pandemic affects a much larger population across a significantly wider region, typically many countries across the globe.
This season, the Triple Epidemic includes RSV, influenza, and COVID.
RSV, short for respiratory syncytial virus, is a respiratory virus that typically has cold-like symptoms. Most healthy adults will recover from it in a week or so. However, infants, the elderly, and immunocompromised people can have much more severe symptoms. Without treatment, it may even lead to death in these groups.
Currently, there is no vaccine for RSV. The only way to keep from getting this virus is to follow health safety precautions, including frequent hand-washing, social distancing, immune support, and masking.
Influenza, or the flu, follows similar patterns, although even healthy people tend to experience more severe symptoms that can last for up to two weeks. These can include cough, sore throat, congestion, fever, body aches, headaches, fatigue, and even nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
A yearly flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the flu. Even when it’s less effective due to different strains, it’ll still help prevent severe symptoms and a long recovery time.
The triple epidemic illnesses cause similar symptoms. Image source
Finally, there’s COVID. While hospitalizations and deaths are significantly lower than they were during the height of the pandemic, it should still be treated as a serious condition, especially as it continues to mutate.
According to the CDC, the two strains that are currently most dominant are EG.5 and HV.1. Fortunately, current vaccines and boosters are effective against these strains since they are descendants of the Omicron variant.
As with the one for the flu, COVID vaccines and boosters may not prevent you from getting COVID-19 completely. However, it will prevent more serious side effects if you do become infected. And all of the precautions we were taking are still recommended and helpful, especially for more vulnerable people.
Why is the Triple Epidemic Happening?
The spreading of multiple contagious diseases during a season is nothing new.
Flu season usually consists of more than just influenza. Illnesses like strep throat, the common cold, and other respiratory viruses are more prevalent in the fall and winter.
Cold weather creates the perfect conditions for the spread of viruses. Being indoors more often makes it easier to pass illnesses, and cooler, dry air lowers our resistance to them. Furthermore, our immune system takes a dip when we don’t exercise as much or eat as healthily.
This year may not be as detrimental to the U.S. hospital system as last year because transmission rates have begun to normalize again. (Last year was unique because it was the first year after the pandemic that the majority of people stopped wearing masks in public. This caused an unexpectedly quick uptick in the spread of these viruses.)
However, hospitalization rates are on the rise.
If you’d like to stay on top of the current data, check current rates through these sources: — Texas COVID-19 cases
However, if triple epidemic cases of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 continue to rise, the occupancy rate will go up, as well.
Around this time last year, almost 80% of hospital beds in the U.S. were full, mostly due to the flu and COVID-19. Just as troubling, there was also a higher-than-average occupancy rate in pediatric hospitals due to RSV cases.
Hopefully, this year will not be as severe. We can help lessen the toll on hospitals and healthcare workers by taking precautions and staying safe.
What You Can Do to Stop the Spread
Staying healthy and not spreading RSV, the flu, and COVID involves good hygiene and self-isolation.
More than anything, if you’re sick, please stay home if at all possible. When living with others who aren’t ill, try to stay in one room and keep away from others as much as you can.
If you go to the doctor or pharmacy, wear a mask and wash your hands to protect those around you.
For those who are not sick, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. Consider wearing a mask if you or somebody in your household are elderly, an infant, or have a weakened immune system.
Lastly, if you haven’t received your COVID-19 vaccines/boosters and your flu shot within the last six months, consider scheduling an appointment if it is healthy for you to do so. You can search for the nearest place to get these vaccines by visiting https://www.vaccines.gov/search/.
If you are older, pregnant, or have small children/infants, you may also want to look at receiving the new RSV vaccine for you and your loved ones. You can find more information here.
Stay safe from the triple epidemic by washing your hands, social distancing, and wearing a mask. Image source
Don’t Be Scared of the Triple Epidemic, but Be Aware!
The winter months often add stress to many people’s lives. Between the holidays, end-of-year worry, and flu season, there’s plenty to be concerned about.
However, stress can lower your immune system, so it’s important to keep it strong with immunity-boosting foods, exercise, and stress management techniques.
Furthermore, you can prevent and treat RSV, the flu, and COVID.
Follow the advice above to help protect yourself and your family from getting sick, and keep track of triple epidemic illness rates in your area. When they are high, try to avoid being out in public unless necessary.
If you get sick, visit your healthcare provider and follow their advice for symptom treatment. Assuming you are otherwise healthy, most symptoms can be alleviated with sufficient fluids, plenty of rest, and OTC medications.
Hopefully, with some care and precaution, the triple epidemic won’t significantly impact you and your family this season.
By ntcr|2023-11-16T16:38:23-06:00January 5, 2023|Health and Wellness|Comments Off on The Triple Epidemic of 2023: RSV, The Flu, and COVID