Bracing for potential ‘tripledemic’ of illnesses this fall

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

Many seasonal viruses tend to rise beginning in the fall, and this year, Lee Health is once again bracing for a potential “tripledemic” of illnesses.

As surely as pumpkin spice lattes and fall football, autumn kicks off virus season. This is coming off a summer when Lee Health saw a higher than normal number of flu cases.

“We’ve had a lot of low grade flu in our community all summer long, higher numbers than we have seen in the past, and maybe because we’re testing more, right, we’re just testing a lot of people for COVID, and those are our tests that also include influenza,” said Dr. Mary Beth Saunders, system medical director of epidemiology at Lee Health.

Saunders said COVID is also on the rise locally. At the start of July, Lee Health reported 18 cases, five in the ICU. By the end of August, they had 79 cases of COVID with four in the ICU. While COVID is a constant now, the potential surge in RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, along with flu, has them bracing for a potential surge in a “tripledemic” of illness.

“At Lee Health, we prepare for influenza season and respiratory viral season every year because we certainly have a surge in our population, and the number of people coming down, they just want to be in the sun and they’re going to feel better. They often hop on a plane sick, and then you know, by the time they get here, they’re ending up in our emergency room,” Saunders said.

Because you never know who you might come into contact with, and what you’re being exposed to, health experts advise arming yourself with protection. There is a vaccine for all three of these viruses, an RSV shot recently approved for the very old and very young.

It’s safe to get all of these shots at the same time.

“Yes, they do have vaccines, and so it’s important to talk to your doctor about what vaccines may be appropriate for you,” Saunders said.

The general medical advice we’ve learned by now is to wash your hands frequently and stay home when you’re sick to lower your chance of falling ill.

If you’re contemplating whether or not to get a seasonal shot, just know it is possible to get any or all of these viruses at the same time. Because they are different, one vaccine won’t cover them all.

Doses of the influenza vaccine will arrive at doctor’s offices and pharmacies later this month to combat the possible “tripledemic.”

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