Tripledemic, referring to the combination of respiratory viruses including the flu, COVID-19, and RSV, has kept the U.S. under intense stress for the past couple of months. Fortunately, the numbers are ultimately diminishing after months.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that the number of emergency room visits for the triple viruses have eased down after three months.
Health officials say viral transmission levels are difficult to measure, and COVID-19 cases are especially undercounted. The flu and RSV also catch a majority of cases, but not the whole scenario.
Health experts says monitoring emergency room visits can be a powerful tool of how extensive each respiratory virus is.
"There’s the chief complaint. When you show up to the emergency room, you complain about something,” said executive director at Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists Janet Hamilton. “Being able to look at the proportion of individuals that seek care at an emergency department for these respiratory illness concerns is a really good measure of the respiratory disease season."
During Thanksgiving season of last year, emergency room visits for respiratory viruses reached 235,000, similar to rates from January 2022, per CDC.
In 2022, early year visits were mainly for the Omicron variant, while the week following Thanksgiving was mostly for the flu. Around 66 percent of emergency room visits were due to the flu, while COVID-19 counted for approximately 25 percent. RSV visits added up to about 10 percent.
"There’s a strong interest in thinking about respiratory diseases in a more holistic way," continued Hamilton. "Transmission is the same. And there are certain types of measures that are good protection against all respiratory diseases. So that could really help people understand that when we are in high circulation for respiratory diseases, there are steps that you can take – just in general."
The CDC revealed that comprehensively, respiratory virus has declined throughout the nation. COVID-19 started three years ago, and it has continued to stay across the globe, impacting the lives of many.
"We didn’t need to have this level of death and devastation, but we’re dealing with it, and we are doing our best to minimize the impact going forward," shared World Health Organization technical lead for COVID-19 response Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove with the Conversations on Healthcare podcast.
Dr. Van Kerkhove thinks 2023 might be the year where COVID-19 would not be considered a public health emergency after three years. In order for this to occur, however, additional research and work is required, such as managing long-term effects or respiratory illness control.
"We’re just not utilizing [vaccines] most effectively around the world. I mean 30% of the world still has not received a single vaccine,” continued Dr. Van Kerkhove. “In every country in the world, including in the US, we’re missing key demographics."