What to expect from the “tripledemic” this winter

Last winter, the impact of COVID-19 was devastating, but this year, government officials expressed hope that this winter will mark an improvement. However, for this season, focus has shifted to the so-called “tripledemic” — the onset of more serious outbreaks of the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in addition to COVID-19. 

While many health officials are still concerned about a rise in COVID-19 cases this winter, as colder weather forces activities to move indoors, health officials point to positive trends, like decreasing cases in Europe and an increased amount of vaccination-based and infection-based immunity as signals that COVID-19 won’t see the same drastic surge as last winter. 

“We’re hoping that there’s enough community protection that we’re not going to see a repeat of what we saw last year at this time,” director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Anthony Fauci said in a White House press briefing.

However, officials still urge the population to get COVID-19 bivalent booster shots, which protect against the Omicron subvariants of the virus. 

“Please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get your updated COVID-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible to protect yourself, your family, and your community,” Fauci said. 

Despite this expected ease of COVID-19, seasonal viruses are on the rise.

Over the last two years, forced isolation and COVID-19 safety measures lessened the intensity of the yearly respiratory infection season. But with few restrictions in place this year, viruses are back with a vengeance. This season, Americans will find themselves in the midst of a “tripledemic” — COVID-19, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, which is a common respiratory virus most serious in young infants and older adults. RSV is mostly characterized by a cough, runny nose and stuffiness, while the flu’s symptoms include fever and sore throat. COVID-19 symptoms include a fever, shortness of breath and body aches. 

This year, the flu season started earlier than usual, partly due to a loss of antibodies during the pandemic. In combination with RSV sweeping across the nation’s children, heavy strains are being placed on hospitals to care for the inflated amount of cases.

Each infection part of the “tripledemic” can be prevented by following standard precautions.

Government officials still recommend vaccinations as the most effective way to protect against COVID-19, as noted above. Since RSV is a respiratory virus, cleaning contaminated surfaces and proper handwashing are important to prevent its spread.The flu, however, can spread in a variety of ways. Officials recommend staying home when sick, and avoiding others that could potentially infect you.