Flu, COVID-19, RSV, Tripledemic… What remains a risk?

In the fall, the Flu, COVID-19, and RSV viruses were circulating and spreading with threats of a “tripledemic.”  Here is what you need to know about these viruses, what is still a concern, and how to best protect yourself.

What is RSV?

RSV – which stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus – is a virus that causes respiratory tract diseases ranging from mild colds to more severe diseases like bronchitis or pneumonia. It can pose a significant risk to children as well as elderly people.

RSV infections include symptoms such as fever, coughing, runny nose, wheezing, sneezing, and decreased appetite. In most cases, the infection is mild and resolves on its own without any treatment. However, in some cases, it can develop into a serious illness that could even require hospitalization. While RSV is most common during the fall and winter months, it can last through spring and can occur any time of year. This timing falling in line with flu season and COVID-19 cold weather spikes, is what created the tripledemic scenario.

RSV is spread through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can get it by touching something with those droplets on it and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. A person who doesn’t show any symptoms may still spread the virus to others — especially if they’re sick with another respiratory infection at the same time.

While there is currently no vaccine available for RSV, the FDA is poised to approve multiple RSV vaccines this year. 

Protecting Against COVID-19

While COVID-19 restrictions such as required mass wearing and quarantines have eased, the virus continues to circulate and pose a risk, especially for those who are immunocompromised and other at-risk people.  

It is still important to test for COVID-19 if you are sick or exposed. You can now order FREE at-home COVID-19 tests by visiting: https://www.covidtests.gov

Equally important to protecting yourself against the COVID-19 virus is staying up to date on your vaccinations.

Preventing Flu 

The exact timing and duration of flu seasons vary, but flu activity often begins to increase in October (the effects of which were felt tenfold as the tripledemic began around the same time) and peaks between December and February, although significant activity can last as late as May. 

Vaccines are important tools to fight the flu and prevent serious infections. While it is recommended people get their vaccines in the fall, they can still be useful as long as the virus is circulating. If you aren’t already vaccinated, you can talk to a local doctor or pharmacist to see if it is recommended.  Many doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and clinics continue to offer vaccines.

Tripledemic Peak

The winter’s tripledemic impacted nearly 40 percent of U.S. households, with someone there getting sick with the flu, COVID-19 or RSV, according to a recent survey from KFF. While it looks like the tripledemic has peaked and that there is a decline in cases and hospitalizations related to the three tripledemic viruses, it is important to continue basic precautions and protections from these and other viruses.


Basic Precautions

The best way to prevent getting sick is to take common-sense precautions. Make sure you…

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Cover your mouth when coughing
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re ill until you’re no longer contagious
  • Don’t share drinks or food with other people

Access to Care with the NAFC

The NAFC remains dedicated to building healthy communities for all through quality, equitable, accessible healthcare. This includes expanding access to testing and vaccines.  For more information on healthcare options, visit https://nafcclinics.org/get-involved/get-care/.