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Navigating ‘Tripledemic’: Unveiling challenges amidst surge in flu, COVID-19, and RSV Cases in US!

Visual Representation for Tripledemic | Credits: NBC News

United States: The flu, COVID-19, and RSV, the three surging major respiratory virus cases are taking place in the US. It has led the country to be fearful of the impending “tripledemic” going to take place during its first post-pandemic respiratory viral season.

Why the fear is real?

When the US entered into the viral season this autumn, the experts were highly optimistic. The nation was fully prepared with the arsenal of vaccines against RSV for the first time, which is a newly updated COVID-19 vaccine, and the flu “immunity debt” that plagued children in 2022 was considered a history, The Hill reported.

Now the confidence is waning. For many, getting access to RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus has been a struggle and high energy for the new COVID-19 vaccines turned out to be abysmal.

Since November, COVID-19 hospital admissions have been on the rise, wastewater detection has indicated most sites, which is 69 percent, seeing large increases in virus levels.

According to the latest update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity across the country is currently “elevated and continues to increase in most parts of the country.” Moreover, the vaccine uptake for the flu seems to be lagging, with the CDC saying nearly 8 million fewer people got the shot by mid-December compared to the same period in 2022, according to the Hills reporting.

Flu status in the country

Currently, across the country flu activity is “elevated and continues to increase in most parts of the country.” And the vaccine uptake for the flu seems to be lagging, with the CDC saying nearly 8 million fewer people got the shot by mid-December compared to the same period in 2022.

Visual Representation for flu

Flu activity remained low due to the precautionary measures taken by the communities to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, during the the first couple of years of the pandemic. However, the 2022-23 flu season appeared to mark a return to normal flu levels.

According to polling from KFF, just about a fifth of U.S. adults are saying to have received the newest COVID-19 shot. Uptake for the previous bivalent shots was similarly low and many Americans likely haven’t been immunized since receiving their first doses in 2020 or 2021, the Hill news reported.

The chief of infectious diseases and epidemiology with UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann, Luis Ostrosky said, “We’re definitely seeing an increase in the number of flu cases, COVID-19. They’re both surging right now.”

Ostrosky on asking about the the RSV cases he’s seen in the Houston area said infections appeared to surge earlier in December, though he is still seeing a “steady” number.

Tests and vaccination status

As per the Hill reports, Ostrosky stated, “This is so alarming that it prompted CDC to send out a health alert towards the end of December reminding all clinicians to really work on getting patients vaccinated and, when they have symptoms, tested so that they can access therapy if they need it.”

Vaccine

With the positivity rates for antigen and PCR tests just beginning to drop in recent weeks, available RSV data from the CDC does seem to suggest test positivity peaked toward the end of November.

With the approval of two RSV vaccines for seniors and a preventive monoclonal antibody for infants, the hope went high that it would help cases to be kept low.

In October, the maker of the monoclonal antibody Beyfortus, Sanofi said unprecedented demand” had led to short supply, leading the CDC to advise doctors to reserve doses for their highest-risk patients.

As per the data suggested by the CDC, only 10 percent only about 10 percent of nursing home residents had gotten immunized against the virus by mid-December, showing RSV vaccine uptake among seniors appeared to lackluster, the Hill News reported.

The chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, of the three circulating viruses, Marcus Plescia said, “The numbers are not looking good.”

Expected trend in future: by experts

Plescia further added, “I think when we get some new numbers for the last week, it’s going to be sort of continued trends in the same direction and increased activity across all of those conditions.”

Moreover, following weeks of year-end travel, a holiday “bump” in cases is also expected to be following. As per AAA estimate in December, more than 115 million people in the US would be traveling 50 miles or more from home during the festivities, the Hill News reported.

Plescia showed concern that amid all the travel, social norms which he hoped to become commonplace following the pandemic appeared to have been largely abandoned.

Plescia said, “I think we’re kind of going back to, you know, the old approach of people don’t stay home when they’re sick.” and further added, “And they think it’s sort of a minor thing and the thought that they might infect somebody else just doesn’t really occur to them.”

According to The Hill report, Plescia noted that although many hospital systems are bringing back mask requirements when respiratory viruses are on the rise, masking has become rare once again. These hospital-enacted requirements may be more easily accepted by communities than those issued by the government, and Plescia expected to see more like them in the future.

Plescia also noted that while the cases are on the rise, his organization hasn’t yet heard of any health systems around the country being unduly stressed by the respiratory viral situation.

He said, “That is sort of the first concern with some kind of ‘tripledemic’ is that we would have so many people getting sick that hospitals would become overwhelmed either because they didn’t have enough beds or they didn’t have enough staff to care for that number of people. We’re not hearing that we’re approaching that, but that is the thing that we’re most concerned about,” The Hill News reported.

According to Ostrosky, there is hope that the case rates will begin to go down soon after a potential holiday bump, and with past winter, peaks indicate a drop sometime in early January.

He emphasized it is still worthwhile to get tested if you experience symptoms because there is now a plethora of therapeutics available for treating these infections.

Plescia also recommended going forward, more focus should be placed on vaccinations among healthcare workers.

Plescia said, “That’s important not just because we don’t want health care workers to get sick and give it to their patients but also, you know, when you have a lot of health care workers getting sick, this whole capacity thing becomes problematic,” and added further, “Because what we’re hearing now is that hospitals are less concerned about not having enough beds. They’re more concerned about having enough health care workers to staff those beds.”

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