Just as things started getting back to normal with the non-mandates of masks and social distancing, reopening schools and offices, experts fear a “tripledemic” is on the way. Now, what is that? you may ask. The trio viral threat of our old acquaintances RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), flu (influenza), and COVID-19, are expected to hit together this winter, causing a “tripledemic”. With many hospitals around the world already reporting cases, there is growing concern that a surge in respiratory viruses will overwhelm healthcare systems by increasing hospitalizations, burdening healthcare workers, overcrowding facilities, and depleting supplies. More into the topic…
1. Tripledemic – What Is the Concern?
While it is not uncommon for different viruses to circulate simultaneously, experts are concerned that if COVID-19, influenza, and RSV all surge and peak simultaneously, there might be chances for the situation to go out of hand, causing “tripledemic.” While respiratory viruses typically peak in the colder months, flu and RSV cases have peaked earlier this year than usual. The emergence and spread of novel and more transmissive Omicron variants with a seemingly enhanced ability to evade immunity, such as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, add to these worries. Along with the disruption of seasonal patterns, experts stress that many people, including children, are likely to have little or waning immunity due to pandemic precautions. The fear of an upcoming rough winter is real.
2. Symptoms to Look Out For
Although these are distinct infections, the clinical manifestations of COVID-19, influenza, and RSV may be strikingly similar. As a result, distinguishing them usually necessitates the use of diagnostic tests. However, there are a few differences to distinguish between their symptoms.
COVID-19 symptoms typically appear two to 14 days after initial virus exposure. They include fever, cough, chills, sore throat, runny or congested nose, loss of smell and taste, headache, fatigue, and body aches. Influenza, on the other hand, typically has a much more rapid onset. Symptoms appear one to two days after infection and include fever, dry cough, chills, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, muscle pains, and headache. RSV symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose, coughing, fever, wheezing, and a loss of appetite. While RSV can be more serious in children and immunocompromised people, it is generally milder than influenza and COVID-19.
3. How Can You Protect Yourself?
Follow the same drill we just thought was over: Be up to date on your vaccinations, put on your masks, wash your hands frequently, use a sanitizer, etc., and you definitely know the rest! As for COVID-19, in many countries worldwide, bivalent vaccines fighting both the original strain and the Omicron strain are in use. In contrast, influenza vaccines are updated yearly based on estimates of the dominant influenza subtype in circulation. These influenza vaccines have shown significant efficacy in preventing infection, particularly when the updated vaccines match the subtype in circulation.
There is currently no RSV vaccine available, but do not be disheartened; the good news is that Pfizer recently published promising data on RSV vaccine administration to pregnant women, which will protect vulnerable newborns. The promising shots are expected to come out by 2023. Let us gear up for that shot, peeps.
The fear of a tripledemic is a real deal, but we sure can get through this. Let us get back on the drill, everyone! We have done it before, and we can do it again. Wear your masks, get the vaccines, get tested when required, and protect yourself and your families. We can do this!