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Doctors Warn of “Tripledemic”

Health care professionals are concerned that a confluence of three different respiratory illnesses could cause significant health challenges this year, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s happening: Cases of the flu are increasing earlier in the season than usual, and children’s hospitals are seeing significant upticks in respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. At the same time, cases of COVID-19 are beginning to rise in parts of the United States, and some doctors fear that November could see all three illnesses surge as temperatures fall.

Why it’s happening: A range of factors are fueling a likely uptick. Precautions like masking and social distancing during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic helped keep people healthy, but also reduced the rate of illnesses like flu and RSV—meaning that today people have lower levels of protection against those illnesses than usual.

  • With the end of many COVID-19-related precautions, exposure will be more common than in recent years, leading to more transmissions and more infections.

What to do: “Public-health officials recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine ideally by the end of this month and say that it is safe to get a flu shot and COVID-19 booster at the same time.”

  • There is no vaccine against RSV yet, but the same precautions that work against viruses like COVID-19 provide effective protection—including washing hands thoroughly, covering coughs and sneezes, improving ventilation indoors and staying home if you are symptomatic.

In better news . . . We may soon have effective vaccines and preventative treatments for RSV. Here’s the state of play from The Washington Post (subscription): 

  • “​​​​​​​ Two RSV vaccines, one developed by pharmaceutical giant GSK and another from Pfizer, have protected older adults in large-scale trials in recent months. Separately, a preventive injection of a monoclonal antibody developed by AstraZeneca and Sanofi provided long-lasting protection in a major trial. And a Pfizer trial testing whether a shot late in pregnancy can provide spillover protection to newborns is expected to report results this fall.”
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