Americans Remain Concerned About Respiratory Illnesses as “Tripledemic” Looms

Americans Remain Concerned About Respiratory Illnesses as “Tripledemic” Looms

A recent health survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania reveals that over a third of American adults are worried about contracting respiratory illnesses such as the seasonal flu, COVID-19, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the next three months. This concern stems from the “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses that overwhelmed healthcare facilities last winter. The survey, which was conducted with a panel of over 1,500 U.S. adults in October 2023, sheds light on the current sentiments surrounding these viral infections.

RSV, a common respiratory virus, is particularly concerning for individuals as hospitals in parts of Texas are already experiencing a surge in emergency room visits due to children with RSV. While RSV typically peaks later in the year, its early onset raises concerns about potential healthcare system strain amid the other respiratory illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that RSV often causes mild, cold-like symptoms but can result in serious complications and hospitalization, especially among infants and older adults.

Interestingly, the survey reveals that U.S. adults do not have a consensus on which virus is more likely to cause severe illness. Twenty-two percent believe COVID-19 is most severe, 13% identify RSV, 7% mention the seasonal flu, and 41% believe all three viruses are equally likely to cause severe illness. Sixteen percent express uncertainty.

The survey also highlights an increase in knowledge about RSV among Americans compared to earlier this year. Health authorities’ approval of new vaccines against RSV specifically for adults aged 60 and older and pregnant individuals has likely contributed to this increase in awareness.

Overall, the survey indicates that concerns about respiratory illnesses persist among American adults. While experts recommend getting vaccinated against the flu and taking necessary precautions, such as practicing good hygiene and wearing masks, the survey suggests a decline in reported flu vaccination rates. This drop in flu vaccination rates raises concerns as it may impact individuals’ likelihood of accepting other CDC-recommended vaccines.


Q: What is RSV?
A: RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus. It is a common respiratory virus that can lead to serious complications, particularly among infants and older adults.

Q: What are the symptoms of RSV?
A: RSV often causes mild, cold-like symptoms. However, it can result in severe illness and may require hospitalization, especially among vulnerable populations.

Q: Are there vaccines available for RSV?
A: Yes, health authorities have approved new vaccines against RSV for adults aged 60 and older and pregnant individuals.

Q: Why are concerns about respiratory illnesses increasing?
A: The “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses experienced last winter and the current surge in RSV cases in some areas contribute to heightened concerns about contracting these viruses.

Q: What can individuals do to protect themselves?
A: Experts recommend getting vaccinated against the flu, practicing good hygiene (such as regular handwashing), and following CDC guidelines to minimize the risk of contracting respiratory illnesses.

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