The flu, COVID-19 and RSV: Why health experts are concerned about this ‘tripledemic’

Combatting the 'tripledemic" of COVID, the flu, and RSV

Hospitals are filling up with people battling both flu and COVID as well as with pediatric patients suffering from Respiratory Syncytial Virus, better known as RSV.

ERs are strained nationwide in what health experts have dubbed a “tripledemic.” With more people becoming ill, there’s less staff available to help with other emergencies like heart attacks or strokes.

And there’s concern that the infections will continue to spread.

Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen, an infectious disease specialist with UF Health, said people are no longer taking preventative measures like social distancing and wearing face masks since COVID-19 restrictions have relaxed. He said this is allowing viruses to spread a lot faster.

Goldhagen said it’s critical to slow transmission before upcoming holiday gatherings.

“We are going into a period of time that is very concerning and very dangerous in the sense for these viruses,” Goldhagen said.

According to the latest statistics from the Florida Department of Health, there were 18,761 new COVID-19 cases reported last week. That’s up from 12,155 the week before.

In Southeast Georgia, Camden, Glynn, and McIntosh counties reported a combined 142 cases during the week of Nov. 30. Glynn County had 106 reported cases.

We know about these cases because of testing done in doctor’s offices. At-home results are not counted, so the reality is the number of cases is likely a little higher.

Goldhagen urges people to get vaccinated.

“People need to be getting vaccinated against COVID and by all means, all children and adults -- children over the age of 6 -- need to be getting their influenza shots,” he said.

The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention tracks flu cases nationwide, and Florida is categorized as having a high rate of infection and Georgia’s rate is very high.

The CDC estimates at least 78,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths from the flu nationwide so far this season.

As for RSV cases, the CDC says about 58,000 children under 5 are hospitalized every year.

While there isn’t a vaccine for RSV, Goldhagen says people can protect their children by following similar protocols as we followed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This includes limiting contact with people, keeping hands and surfaces clean, and wearing face masks when around other people, or indoors for extended periods.

About the Authors:

This native of the Big Apple joined the News4Jax team in July 2021.

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.