‘Tripledemic’: Danger posed by COVID-19, flu & RSV a worry as people gather for Thanksgiving

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thanksgiving gatherings kick off a spike in other emergency visits as generations gather and swap germs.

This year, the danger posed by COVID-19 and other viruses, including an early flu season and RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, is a continuing worry, said Dr. Christopher Kang, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to some infections; older people are more susceptible to others.

“What age group is not at risk?” Kang said.

To reduce the chances of infection and serious illness, make sure everyone eligible is up-to-date on vaccinations. Ask folks who have any symptoms of illness — even “allergies” or “just a cold” — to stay home. Consider asking guests to take a rapid COVID-19 test before they show up. Make sure your home is well-ventilated: Open windows, keep a portable air purifier running. To protect the most vulnerable guests, consider wearing masks indoors.

News4JAX has also been speaking with doctors in Jacksonville about what’s being called a “tripledemic.” They say the area is not seeing a run on cases of COVID-19, RSV and the flu. They say these cases are here — but not in large numbers.

More than likely, children with RSV would be brought to Wolfson Children’s Hospital. News4JAX on Wednesday reached out to staff and received this statement”

“Children’s hospitals across the country are seeing an early surge of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common respiratory illness in children. Experts attribute this partly to a lack of exposure during the past two years due to COVID protocols. RSV cases in North Florida are declining and Wolfson Children’s Hospital continues to have the capacity to provide care to our community’s children.”

News4JAX also checked in with various health clinics, like Avecina Medical.

“We’ve definitely had an uptick in RSV and influenza, but not really COVID. COVID has been kind of on a downward trend,” said Dr. Saman Soleymani, Avecina Medical. “When people when parents hear this, and you hear RSV, and they kind of panic a little bit not knowing what that is.”

News4JAX asked if this is something people really need to be worried about.

“It is self-limiting. For sure, it is a respiratory virus,” Soleymani said. “Where it becomes an issue is where patients have to have significant fevers, they have difficulty in breathing. If their breathing rate, heart rate is so high or they’re having difficulty breathing, that’s where it becomes an issue where we can use medications to reduce inflammation in the respiratory system, you know, give them inhalers and so on.”

Soleymani said one reason why the Jacksonville area may not be seeing a surge at hospitals is because the children may not be sick enough to require hospitalization and they can be treated at home.

News4JAX also checked with UF Health Jacksonville to find out what it is seeing.

You know, we had pretty busy winters the last two years just because of COVID. Obviously, now the other two viruses, RSV and flu, are starting to pop up a little bit more. As a matter of fact, in Florida, you know, we, the health department is monitoring an above-average season for both RSV and the flu,” said Dr. Chirag Patel with UF Health. “We’re well prepared. We have been anticipating now, based on the lessons learned with our COVID pandemic, that we will likely have a busier than normal viral illness season in the winter. And so we are well prepared and have a contingency plan in place, whether it’s children or adults, to really handle the influx.”

News4JAX also asked Patel about COVID-19 and how many people do not seem concerned about it anymore.

“Well, COVID is still COVID. You know, it’s not any less dangerous than it was before. You know, I think what you mentioned about people taking it less seriously has a lot to do with the omicron variant being not as virulent as delta was,” Patel said. “But keep in mind that people are still getting hospitalized with COVID and we are still having way more deaths from COVID than we should with a typical viral illness.”

One thing that News4JAX heard from several doctors is criticism of the health department for not releasing more information about the cases in Florida. Doctors say that is critical for their planning and believe, in the long run, that could cause severe problems.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.