Flu, RSV and Covid starting to circulate in the US amid fears of ‘tripledemic’

Flu, RSV and Covid starting to circulate in the US amid fears of ‘tripledemic’

Experts have been urging Americans to stay up-to-date on their Covid, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccines for weeks now, ahead of the worst of cold and flu season.

Now, reports show the viruses are already circulating in the US.

The data show that during the week ending 21 October — the most recent week for which numbers are available — there were 1,456 patients hospitalised with influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

During that time, Covid deaths jumped 12.5 per cent compared to the previous week.

Though the national RSV case count is still considered “low”, it has already ramped up to “high” in certain regions, per data from WastewaterSCAN.

Last month, the CDC warned of a potential “tripledemic”, in which cases of RSV, flu, and Covid all peak at the same time, potentially overwhelming hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Experts said the agency’s projections for the winter months were cause for concern. “When a disease is endemic, it means that the levels are mostly predictable. So it’s nice to see the CDC putting out their predictions this fall,” Dr Ellie Murray, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health, tweeted in response to the outlook. “[On the other hand], it’s not so nice that their best case scenario is almost twice as many respiratory hospitalizations as pre-COVID.”

During last year’s tripledemic, the peaks of the three viruses overlapped, causing chaos in emergency care centres. RSV, in particular, took a massive toll on children — at one point, every single paediatric hospital bed in the state of Rhode Island was full, according to reporting from NBC News.

If hospitals are overfull with Covid, RSV, and flu patients, they may have to delay routine appointments, like preventive cancer screenings.

This is among the reasons officials are urging Americans to take precautions to lower their risks of suffering from respitatory viruses. In the US, everyone aged six months and up is eligible for the latest Covid vaccine. People who don’t have health insurance can get the vaccine for free through the CDC’s Bridge Access Program.

Everyone six months and older is also eligible for a flu shot, while the RSV vaccine is availalbe to anyone 60 years and older. This is the first year in which vaccines for all three viruses will be available ahead of cold and flu season, as the RSV vaccine was just released this year.

Despite the fact that global health authorities are urging the public to stay up-to-date on vaccines for the sake of public health, some GOP politicians have recently cast doubt on the life-saving shots. Last month, the administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced it will not recommend Covid boosters for people under the age of 65, despite CDC guidance.

Though Republican politicians have publicly painted the vaccines as controversial or dangerous, many have chosen to get the shots to protect themselves. Former president Donald Trump has been vaccinated, per the Associated Press. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also got vaccinated, as did Senator Josh Hawley. Mr DeSantis himself also privately got vaccinated against the virus, per USA Today. Many have questioned why top Republican leaders have chosen to protect themselves through vaccination while publicly portraying the shots as somehow dangerous.

Ultimately, getting vaccinated is the best way to stay safe considering flu, RSV, and Covid are already affecting the American public, and will likely continue to do so, experts say.

In a statement released 12 September, when the CDC officially recommended the upated Covid vaccine, CDC Director Dr Mandy Cohen said, “We have more tools than ever to prevent the worst outcomes from COVID-19. CDC is now recommending [the vaccine] to better protect you and your loved ones.”