Tripledemic: Good news, bad news and good news

Author: By Jeffrey Wheeler, M.D., Medical Director, MDwise

There’s good news and bad news about a new word that recently entered our daily lives: Tripledemic.

The good news is that it’s unlikely you will personally suffer any sort of triple-whammy illness suggested by the word “tripledemic.” The bad news is, unless we each take measures to protect ourselves from COVID, the flu and RSV, our health care system may be unable to respond to our most pressing needs.

In some ways, the tripledemic is simply a product of timing. While we have made strides against COVID, its lingering presence has collided with an outbreak of RSV and the arrival of flu season. RSV is a respiratory virus that primarily affects young children and older adults.

Other factors also feed the tripledemic. Mainly having been isolated for a couple of years, many children arrived at school this year more susceptible to illnesses. At the same time, vaccine hesitancy and last year’s relatively light flu season have resulted in fewer people getting flu shots. On top of all that, cooler weather has pushed people closer together, making it easier for illness to spread.

Fortunately, there is good news about this situation: It won’t take miracle cures or massive injections of money to address it. Instead, it simply will take each of us acting for the good of all of us.

That means returning to the habits we established in the early days of the pandemic. Mask up when appropriate. Wash hands frequently. Avoid large crowds in enclosed spaces. And most importantly, avoid contact with others when we are ill.

Also: Get vaccinated. We have compelling evidence that vaccines work and that the benefits far outweigh any rare side effects that have been the focus for many vaccine-hesitant individuals. Physicians have never been more confident in the positive impact of vaccines. Even when a vaccine-preventable illness is not entirely averted, the vaccine reduces the severity of the disease and decreases transmission.

It would be best if you also watched for illness in children. If your little one is laboring to breathe, running a high fever or showing other signs of serious illness, don’t delay. Instead, act fast to get care, heading off severe illness and limiting the opportunity that the disease could spread to others.

Finally, stay home if you feel sick. Exposure to what might seem like a mild illness, “just a sniffle,” or a “touch of something” in you could result in severe disease in others. It could be much worse in a child, a senior citizen, a cancer patient, someone who is immunocompromised or others who are more susceptible to illness.

So, when you hear the bad news about the tripledemic, remember this good news. We all have it in our power to reduce its severity and impact on those with the highest risk for serious illness.

HHW-HIPM0778 (12/22)

Jeffrey Wheeler, M.D., Medical Director, MDwise