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World Faces Triple Epidemic, Scientists Warn

World Faces Triple Epidemic of Flu, RSV, and COVID-19, scientists warn. Credit: NIAID, CC BY 2.0

With summer well past us and winter fast approaching, doctors are concerned over a big spike in RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) cases. It is, of course, quite indicative of a likely increase in flu and COVID-19 cases. This triple epidemic is expected to increase during this season as hospitals have already seen an increase in RSV particularly, which is a respiratory virus that primarily affects children.

“What we’ve been dealing with recently is the significant uptick in the number of children who are showing up to emergency departments with RSV,” said Dr. James Schneider, the chief of pediatric critical care at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, according to a report by NBC. 

Schneider noted that RSV symptoms are similar to the flu and COVID-19 and added that he is seeing all three viruses spiking up early in the season. 

According to the same report, the pharmacy giant Walgreens said that activity at its clinics is more than ten times higher than the previous season, emphasizing that infections have doubled in the last two weeks.

“We’re seeing it in the cities in the south and we’re seeing it move a lot faster than we have in the past,” said Anita Patel, the vice president for pharmacy product services at Walgreens.

CDC’s statement

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that respiratory illnesses in particular are appearing earlier and in more people in comparison to previous years. 

The federal health agency noted that flu activity has also dramatically increased across multiple parts of the United States, indicating that this season could be much more severe than other ones.

An ABC news analysis indicated that, as of October 31st, pediatric bed occupancy in the United States had reached its peak in comparison to the last two years with seventy-five percent of the estimated forty thousand beds filled with patients.

A CDC data analysis revealed that even though COVID-19 infections have not yet begun to surge, it is expected that they will do so during Thanksgiving much like the pandemic years. 

Experts believe that a “perfect storm” is on its way as the combination of closed indoor gatherings with the lack of exposure to other viruses will quickly result in more cases.  

Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and an ABC News contributor said that “mostly the issue is there’s low population immunity and kids are, once again, gathered again, and this is facilitating rapid spread of viruses like RSV.” 

He added that “because of the sheer volume of infection, when you have that larger denominator, you have a situation where a portion of those kids are going to require hospital treatment. And because of that, our hospitals are spread thin, not only for bed capacity, but also for critical staffing, of those beds.”

Vaccination is important, especially for children

Dr. Federico Laham, medical director of pediatric infectious disease at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children said, “If your child has not yet received the influenza vaccine, it is imperative that he or she [get one] as soon as possible,” according to ABC. 

“It takes, as we know, a few weeks to mount a response,” Laham said, explaining that this is especially the case “with some children who…after these past two years with very little flu circulation, the immune system gets a little bit lazy and forgetful. So it’s important to ‘remind’ it.”

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