RSV, flu, COVID: Doctors concerned over possibility of 'tripledemic' worsening. Here's what to know

Denise Dador Image
Thursday, December 1, 2022
Doctors concerned over possibility of 'tripledemic' worsening
Doctors are expressing concern that the so-called "tripledemic" of RSV, flu and COVID-19 could worsen.

The colder temperatures are ushering in a new health threat: We don't only have the COVID-19 pandemic to contend with, but add to that flu and RSV.

We're in the thick of a severe "tripledemic" and experts worry it could worsen.

At hospitals across Los Angeles County, emergency rooms and bed space are filling fast.

"We're seeing large numbers of influenza cases, large numbers of RSV cases and an increasing number of COVID cases every day," said Dr. Michael Ben-Aderet, Associate Director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Overnight Tuesday, new infections in L.A. County rose more than 80% from 2,370 to more than 4,350 Wednesday. Officials reported 10 more deaths. And since yesterday, nearly 100 more people have been hospitalized.

"Right now in the community, we're seeing really high levels of viruses," said Ben-Aderet. He said the flu, COVID-19 and the RSV tripledemic is showing no signs of slowing.

Flu, COVID and RSV are all viruses that may all seem like the common cold at first, but there are slight differences that can help parents get a sense of what is going on.

"If you're not critically ill, you should not be coming to the emergency room. You should utilize urgent care and telehealth visits with your physician or a regular visit with your primary care physician," he said. "We really want to reserve the ER for critically ill patients."

Most can recuperate at home with rest and fluids,

But a rapid COVID test or flu test can help you figure out if you can benefit from antiviral medications, such as Paxlovid and Tamiflu. And if you haven't yet done so, get your vaccines.

"So get your flu shot," Ben-Aderet said. "Get your COVID vaccine and get your booster if you're eligible. That's super important, and that's going to help prevent illness and prevent hospitalization especially in the most vulnerable people."

While COVID doesn't effectively spread through surfaces, other viruses do. So wash your hands often. Masking can help slow the spread of all the germs.

"For example, wear a mask in a crowded bus or a crowded airplane, places where you're going to be around strangers," Ben-Aderet said. "You don't know these people. You don't know who is sick and who isn't. It's a good opportunity to wear a mask.

Doctors say COVID boosters are more important than ever, as new information reveals the last remaining monoclonal antibody treatment doesn't hold up against the latest subvariants.

The FDA paused its emergency-use authorization for an Eli Lily drug because it's not expected to work against BQ.1 and BQ.1.1.