The United States is facing a triple threat, with a confluence of viral infections due to respiratory syncytial virus, influenza and Covid-19. Many children’s hospitals are overwhelmed after surges of RSV, while the level of influenza is the highest it has been at this point in the year for more than a decade. And after a lull in cases, new coronavirus infections are on the rise across the country as well.
All of this is happening as holiday season begins, with more people traveling and gathering indoors, likely with fewer precautions than in the previous two years.
How much should people be concerned? Which individuals should be the most cautious? Can people get all three viruses at the same time? What steps can be taken to reduce risk and stay safe? And should mandates such as masking and social distancing return?
To guide us through these questions, I spoke with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician, public health expert and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also author of “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.”
CNN: Why should people be concerned about the convergence of RSV, influenza and Covid-19?
Dr. Leana Wen: There are several reasons to be concerned about this so-called tripledemic.
One is the impact at the societal level. Already, children’s hospitals across the United States are filled with kids infected with viruses, including RSV and influenza. Some experts speculate this is due to an immunity gap as a result of mitigation measures taken over the last two years. The situation is so bad that children’s health leaders have requested a formal declaration of emergency from the Biden administration to better assist these hospitals. (The administration has not declared an emergency, but the US Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to governors last week saying it “stands ready to continue assisting you with resources, supplies, and personnel.”)