Tripledemic Numbers Climbing as Holidays Approach
U.S. hospitalizations due to flu are the highest seen in a decade.
During a recent media telebriefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , announced that the United States is currently seeing nationally elevated levels of respiratory viruses, including influenza (flu), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19. Walenshky added that the United States is experiencing the highest levels of hospitalizations from flu that it has seen in a decade for this time of year.
Earlier this fall, CMM reported on its website that health experts anticipated this season to be particularly harsh regarding the flu, RSV, and COVID-19—producing what many have called a “tripledemic.” According to CDC estimates, there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 deaths from flu since October 1.
“I want to emphasize that flu vaccines can be life saving and importantly, there is still time to get vaccinated to be protected against flu this season,” said Walensky. “Getting vaccinated is especially important for those at higher risk of severe flu illness, including those who are younger than five years old, those who are older than 65, pregnant people, and people who have certain underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk for severe and serious consequences.”
During the telebriefing, Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, board chair at the American Medical Association, affirmed the rising number of respiratory cases and also urged people to get vaccinated.
“I see patients in my office every day, and I can tell you firsthand, this year’s flu season is off to a rough start,” Fryhofer said. “Flu is here. It started early. And with COVID and RSV also circulating, it’s a perfect storm for a terrible holiday season. And that’s why it’s so important to get vaccinated for both flu and COVID.”
In a recent press release, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) noted that increased socializing and crowded indoor gatherings associated with the upcoming holidays could put more people at risk for a respiratory illness. APIC has recommended the following infection prevention actions for this holiday season:
Get vaccinated. The bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster and the flu vaccines are formulated to work against the strains that are spreading and can help protect against severe hospitalization and death. Vaccination also protects those around us who might not produce a strong immune response or who could be too young to get vaccinated.
When in doubt, take the mask out. Wear a mask in crowded indoor settings, cover your cough, and keep your hands clean. Make sure children understand how to clean their hands.
See a health care provider as soon as symptoms develop. Contact a health care provider immediately so that treatments can be started early in your illness when they will be most effective.
To learn more about what your facility can do to help lower the risk of respiratory illness, also see Promoting Vaccination at Your Facility, Don’t Forget About the Flu, and Rising Flu Underscores Schools’ Need to Clean and Disinfect.