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Tripledemic of flu, RSV & COVID-19 from early surges through season’s peak

Seemingly endless variants of the coronavirus and now a heightened respiratory season that has included a tripledemic of flu, RSV and Covid-19 has had everyone on guard about how they’re feeling and wondering if, and when, they’ll get sick.

February has historically been the crest of flu season during the past 40 years in the U.S., but this year’s season brought on an early onslaught.1 Twenty five states experienced high or very high levels of outpatient visits for influenza-like illnesses in November. This was four to six weeks earlier than usual.2  Tripledemic

The early surge was global too. Hundreds of NHS beds in England were taken up by patients with flu in November, up to more than 10 times the number during the same period in 2021. More than 19 in 20 adult general and acute beds were occupied in NHS hospitals.3

Europe also experienced early flu surges and threats from RSV and Covid-19. Hospital admissions rose beginning in October, and populations 55 years and older accounted for almost half of reported flu hospital admissions.4

After two years of flu all but disappearing during the Covid-19 pandemic, the lack of exposure might have affected immunity to it. In October, the CDC stated, “reduced population immunity, particularly among young children who may never have had flu exposure or been vaccinated, could bring about a robust return of flu.”5


In October, the CDC stated, “reduced population immunity, particularly among young children who may never have had flu exposure or been vaccinated, could bring about a robust return of flu.”


 

Flu’s collision with RSV and Covid-19

That collided with a rise of RSV cases in children, who usually get the respiratory syncytial virus before the age of 2 and it resolves on its own. But it can lead to serious infection if it reaches the lower airways, and it accounts for roughly 2.1 million outpatient visits each year in the U.S., according to the CDC.6 Also, immunity to RSV is short lived, so it’s possible to get it more than once in the same season.

The tripledemic began to sweep across the U.S. after Thanksgiving, causing a rise in patients with respiratory illnesses. UC San Diego Health, for example, set up tents in parking lots and other spaces to triage overflow patients.7 Temporary beds lined the hallways of emergency departments for patients awaiting hospital beds and hospitals have been at their fullest this respiratory season since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.8

As RSV cases began to decline this respiratory season, Covid-19 cases began to rise amongst the existing flu surges. Still, this tripledemic isn’t as bad as Covid-19 was during the pinnacle of the pandemic. That’s due to vaccines and natural immunity from the collective number of infections.

 

High-quality rapid tests, molecular point-of-care and fast immunoassay systems

With so many spikes in respiratory infections this season, diagnostic testing remains of utmost importance. It is nearly impossible to distinguish between Covid-19 and influenza-based symptoms alone. The CDC developed testing guidelines to provide healthcare professionals guidance on Covid-19 and influenza testing in both a hospital setting and outpatient clinic.9

SEKISUI Diagnostics delivers a broad range of high-quality rapid tests, molecular point-of-care and fast immunoassay systems. These diagnostic tests allow labs and physician offices to diagnose at the point-of-care in one visit.

The Acucy® Influenza A&B Test provides fast and accurate results for clinicians in one office visit and the OSOM® Ultra Plus Flu A and B Rapid Test is an in vitro rapid qualitative test that detects influenza type A and type B nucleoprotein antigens directly from a nasal swab and nasopharyngeal swab specimens.

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References: 

  1. Flu Season, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Why Did Flu Season Start So Early This Season?, Scientific American
  3. Hundreds of Beds Taken Up by Flu Patients Every Day Ahead of Winter, NHS England
  4. Joint Statement – Influenza Season Epidemic Kicks Off Early in Europe as Concerns Over RSV Rise and Covid-19 Is Still a Threat, World Health Organization
  5. CDC Reports Early Increases in Seasonal Flu Activity, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  6. RSV Research & Surveillance, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  7. A Trifecta of Respiratory Viruses – Covid, RSV and Flu – Is Taxing Hospitals Across the Nation, CNN
  8. Hospitals in the US Are the Fullest They’ve Been Throughout the Pandemic – But It’s Not Just Covid, CNN
  9. Testing Guidance for Clinicians When SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza Viruses are Co-Circulating, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention