Health authorities are growing concerned about the increase in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases among young children. In the past week alone, 213 patients were hospitalized with RSV, and a staggering 88% of them were under the age of one. This surge in cases comes at a time when health officials are already grappling with the combined challenge of flu, RSV, and Covid-19, a scenario ominously referred to as a “tripledemic.”
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has expressed disappointment regarding the low uptake of flu and Covid-19 boosters, emphasizing the strain it is placing on healthcare services. Director of health protection at the HSE, Dr Éamonn O’Moore, issued a warning, stating that flu levels are on the rise and expected to peak from mid-December to January. Additionally, he highlighted that approximately half of the seriously ill Covid-19 patients in intensive care units did not receive boosters in the last six months.
According to figures up to November 1, only 11.5% of healthcare workers have received the Covid-19 autumn booster vaccine, and 24.3% have received the flu vaccine. Alarming data reveals that a mere 10% of immunocompromised individuals have received their Covid-19 vaccine this winter. However, there have been some positive developments, with approximately 60% of those aged 65 and older receiving the flu jab, along with a notable percentage of eligible children and adults in other age groups.
The low overall vaccine uptake is causing grave concerns among health authorities who fear its potential impact on public health in the coming months. It is crucial to highlight the correlation between lower vaccination rates and increased hospitalizations, which could be avoided if more people were immunized. The strain on hospitals and healthcare services is expected to intensify as the winter progresses.
In an unrelated but significant development, a recent report revealed 19 adult deaths and eight child deaths resulting from invasive strep A infection this year. However, the levels of this life-threatening infection appear to have returned to pre-pandemic levels since August. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre acknowledges the close association between iGAS and winter respiratory viruses and continues to monitor and scrutinize the situation closely this winter.
1. What is RSV?
RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common viral infection that affects the respiratory tract, primarily in young children. It can cause symptoms similar to a cold or flu, such as coughing, sneezing, and difficulty breathing.
2. What is a “tripledemic”?
A “tripledemic” refers to the convergence of three infectious diseases occurring simultaneously. In this case, it refers to the combination of flu, RSV, and Covid-19.
3. Why is the low vaccine uptake concerning?
Low vaccine uptake increases the risk of hospitalizations and strains healthcare services. Vaccines play a crucial role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases and reducing their severity.
4. What is invasive strep A infection (iGAS)?
Invasive strep A infection, or iGAS, is a severe bacterial infection that can lead to life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia, sepsis, or necrotizing fasciitis.