DuPage health officials say take action now to help prevent “tripledemic”

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DuPage County health officials are looking ahead to the colder seasons, and are giving suggestions on what people can do now to help prevent illness later. These tips they say may help to avoid a “tripledemic” of COVID-19, RSV, and the flu.

New COVID-19 booster

In June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised drug manufacturers to develop a new COVID-19 booster that targets the XBB.1.5 strain of the virus: an Omnicron subvariant. 

The new booster is expected to roll out sometime this fall along with recommendations on who should get it. 

“The recommendations have not yet been issued, so we don’t have clarity yet on who the eligible groups will be,” said Dr. Rashmi Chugh, the DuPage County Health Department Medical Officer. “It is anticipated to be broad but we will just have to wait and see in the coming weeks as those are issued.”

Dr. Chugh also offered a suggestion for those who were uncertain about getting the current vaccine or waiting for the new one in the fall. 

“The current booster has been available for some time, so if someone has already held off, then it might be better to wait a little longer until the fall booster is available,” said Dr. Chugh. “You want to capitalize on when you get it so that it’s closer to when the rise in activity happens.”

Dr. Chugh did note that there are exceptions, such as individuals that are expected to do heavy traveling or have increased exposure. 

“On a case-by-case basis, it might be good to consult with your healthcare provider to see if it might make sense to get [the current booster] now and get the new booster when it is issued,” said Dr. Chugh. 

What to know about the RSV vaccine

Earlier this year, the FDA approved the first respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine called Arexvy. The vaccine is approved for adults aged 60 and above and works to prevent the lower respiratory tract disease that is caused by RSV. 

“As far as vaccines, there are two new vaccines for older adults by two different manufacturers (GSK and Pfizer), both are effective in protecting against severe illness,” said Dr. Chugh. 

The CDC says that individuals 60 years and older may get the vaccine after consultation with their healthcare provider, though it’s a permissive recommendation from the agency. That means that individuals may get the vaccine, but the CDC is not officially urging people to do so.

“We know that persons 60 years and older are at an increased risk for severe illness, so it makes sense for them to at least consider getting this vaccine now that it’s available and to consult with their physician or their provider to see if it makes sense for them to proceed with the vaccination,” said Dr. Chugh.

RSV medication for children

Though the RSV vaccine is for adults over 60, individuals of any age can get RSV. Infants along with older adults who get very sick from RSV are more susceptible to hospitalization and even death according to the CDC. 

A preventative medicine for infants and at-risk children up to 24 months called Beyfortus was also approved by the FDA. This is an antibody administered by intramuscular injection.

“This is recommended for infants who are under 8 months to get for their first RSV season and also high-risk children between 8 and 19 months,” said Dr. Chugh.

Don’t forget about flu shots in tripledemic prevention

While the new vaccines and treatments above are focused on COVID-19 and RSV, health officials are reminding the community not to forget about the flu this season. 

“Last fall, there was concern because there was so much focus on COVID-19 that sometimes even mild, moderate, or even severe illness related to other conditions was delayed or potentially missed such as Group A strep or influenza because there was so much focus on COVID-19.”

The CDC recommends that people get the flu vaccine between September and October.

“Flu typically does peak after January, between January and March, but we’ve had seasons where it peaks a little earlier,” said Dr. Chugh.

Act now to help prevent tripledemic later

In terms of COVID-19, the Illinois Department of Public Health confirmed that DuPage and Will County, as well as all Illinois counties, are currently at a low level for hospital admissions. 

“As summer winds down and another school year begins, I am reassured that COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses remain at low levels across Illinois,” said the IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra in a press release. 

However, it is still recommended to take advantage of the resources available when safe to do so, in order to help prevent a potential tripledemic down the road.

“I encourage all Illinoisans to speak with their primary care providers on using our available tools to protect themselves and their families from flu, RSV, and Covid-19,” said Dr. Vohra.

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