Health Experts Warn of Potential “Tripledemic”

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With the arrival of cold weather and masking mitigations removed, health experts are warning of a potential “tripledemic.” The term refers to a perfect storm of COVID-19, the flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) all surging at the same time.

RSV Surging, Pediatric ICU Full

RSV has already arrived on the scene. Dr Jonathan Pinsky, the medical director for Infection Control & Prevention at Edward Hospital, says after an influx of cases, the pediatric ICU at Edward is currently full. In some cases, he said, patients had to be transferred to other hospitals because of lack of beds.

RSV is one of the common cold viruses. It’s usually manageable for adults, but can cause breathing difficulty in young children.

“Mainly children who are less than one year, and especially infants and premature children are especially at high risk for severe disease,” Pinsky said. “And it’s estimated that about 1 in 100 children under the age of six months who get RSV will end up hospitalized with severe infection. The virus can get into the lower airways and cause inflammation in the small airways called the bronchioles and cause something called bronchiolitis and that can be very dangerous.”

Pinsky says Edward saw more than 80 cases of RSV this past week alone. To compare, during the peak of the cases over the winter of 2018 to 2019, pre-COVID, there were roughly 30 a week.

As of right now there isn’t a vaccine for RSV, but there is a monoclonal antibody available for children that are high risk.

COVID-19 And Flu Cases

Pinsky said the flu is still in its early stages. As for COVID-19, he says, numbers have remained somewhat consistent.

“We’re just starting this week to start to see some influenza cases. It’s not really surging, but we have seen the beginning of the influenza season, and so that might pick up. COVID-19, we continue to see cases every week and hospitalizations every week. I would say that’s pretty flat. But as far as numbers go, COVID-19 is still a bit more,” said Dr. Pinsky.

Why Are These Viruses Spreading?

The resurgence of some of these viruses and the spread of the “tripledemic” is likely due in part to the drop of masking mitigations, Pinsky said.

“We know a lot about RSV and influenza because those have been around a lot longer than COVID-19. Those are fall, winter, spring viruses. What’s different now is that the past two winter flu seasons, we haven’t seen much of the flu or RSV. So, what that’s done is there’s a whole population now that’s not immune. Most children are exposed to RSV by the age of two years old. However, there’s a lot of children who have not been exposed to RSV the last two years,” said Dr. Pinsky.

How To Stop The Spread

With the holidays approaching, Dr. Pinsky gave some advice to help stave off a “tripledemic”.

“I would just remind everyone, urge everyone, to get vaccinated this year. Get a flu shot, as well as an updated bivalent booster,” Pinsky said. “The updated booster does cover the newer variants, so it’s expected to work better than the original booster. Children as young as six months old are eligible to get vaccinated for COVID and children as young as five years old are eligible to get the bivalent updated booster for COVID-19.”

Naperville News 17’s Anthony Yench Reports.

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