As cold weather starts to set in, cases of potentially severe illnesses begin to climb. This year, health care professionals are particularly concerned with the threat of a tripledemic, especially in patients who are older or don’t seek out routine immunizations.
The term “tripledemic” is how some healthcare professionals refer to a potential combination of COVID-19, RSV, and seasonal flu. These illnesses are potentially dangerous in their own right, but they become especially life-threatening if a patient is already sick or has a weakened immune system.
Luckily, many resources exist to help fight these diseases, and the Community Health Worker (CHW) network has already begun working in their respective communities to bring health equity to each neighborhood.
Some of the ways CHWs are assisting include:
Providing linkage to appointments for updated COVID-19 immunizations.
Assisting with the location of current flu immunizations.
Educating communities on the dangers of RSV.
Helping guide access to RSV immunizations for the most vulnerable populations.
Communities across Illinois have access to local CHWs, who can help with these and a variety of other concerns. Here are some frequently asked questions to help guide decisions regarding “tripledemic” and vaccination decisions.
What is the best way to protect against a “tripledemic”?
Healthcare professionals strongly encourage yearly immunizations for COVID-19, RSV, and the seasonal flu. These immunizations can lessen the severity of the illness.
Who should get these immunizations?
It is recommended that anybody who is able to receive an immunization should get one. This is especially true for people who are elderly, the very young, or those who are immunocompromised. As always, it’s best to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional if you have questions.
When is flu season?
The flu can be contracted year-round, but healthcare professionals notice an increase in cases as temperatures drop. The number of cases increase the most beginning in October with spikes in December and February. Flu cases are monitored and tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which publishes a Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report, found here.
What are the risks of RSV?
RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a common and highly contagious respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms. The populations most at risk for RSV are children under the age of two and the elderly with pre-existing medical conditions. There are two RSV vaccines available for adults over the age of 60, pregnant adults, and babies up to 8 months old.
What is the current state of COVID-19?
The most recent variant of the COVID-19 virus is descendent of Omicron called XBB.1.5. This variant is the most transmissible form of the virus yet. Vaccination and booster shots as recommended by the CDC remain the most effective method of preventing COVID-19.
In addition to immunizations, how should patients navigate a “tripledemic”?
Influenza, RSV and COVID-19 are respiratory viruses which are spread through contaminated air and surfaces. Frequent hand washing and cleaning frequently touched surfaces can reduce the risk for infection. Receiving your recommended yearly flu shot, COVID-19 vaccine, and RSV vaccine, if eligible, are the most effective methods of sickness prevention.