Federal health authorities are urging Americans to stay up to date on all vaccines to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system during the upcoming cold and flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a statement warning about the potential for a “tripledemic” in which cases of Covid-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) all circulate simultaneously, causing significant disruptions to urgent care centers and hospitals.
In the past, RSV and flu have caused millions of illnesses during the fall and winter months. The flu alone is estimated to cause between 9 million to 41 million illnesses each year, while RSV causes over 2 million illnesses in children under the age of five. Among individuals aged 65 and older, RSV leads to up to 10,000 deaths annually.
The emergence of Covid-19 has added an extra burden to an already fragile healthcare system. Hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 continue to rise, and health experts warn that if all three viruses peak at the same time, it could overwhelm healthcare centers, causing delays in routine appointments and screenings, such as cancer screenings.
Experts emphasize the importance of vaccination to prevent a tripledemic. This year, vaccines are available for all three viruses, and the CDC recommends that all eligible individuals stay up to date on their shots. Adults aged 60 and older are eligible for the RSV vaccine, while everyone six months and older can receive the updated Covid-19 and flu vaccines.
Viral infections causing a tripledemic may require the reintroduction of measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing. The lack of these behaviors during the previous cold and flu season contributed to the strain on the healthcare system. Additionally, hesitancy to get vaccinated also played a significant role in last year’s healthcare crisis. Data from a health policy research group indicates that only a quarter of US adults received the bivalent booster available in September 2022.
It is important to note that anyone can get seriously ill from these viruses, not just those in specific age brackets or with underlying health conditions. Vaccination is the safest way to build immunity and reduce the risk of infection and severe diseases. Staying up to date on all vaccines not only protects individuals but also helps maintain the integrity of the healthcare infrastructure.
Sources: CDC, KFF (data from a health policy research group)
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