Health experts warn of ‘tripledemic’ of flu, RSV, and COVID during holiday season

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 11:47 PM EST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Holiday travel season is in full swing and health experts want you to make sure you’re staying safe.

Emergency departments are seeing more patients come in with the flu more than anything. Luckily, the majority of them have not been severe but local health leaders say that doesn’t mean when should let our guard down this holiday season.

As we all get ready to celebrate the busiest holidays of the year, health experts around the country are warning of a virus season like no other, some calling it a “triple-demic.”

“Unfortunately we’re dealing with this because we’ve been doing a lot of things to keep ourselves safe for the last two-plus years and now we’re a little bit freer, we’re a little bit more open,” Executive Director of Shelby County Health Department Dr. Michelle Taylor said.

Dr. Taylor says COVID is still with us but now we’re dealing with respiratory viruses like the flu and RSV.

Viruses Taylor says we were mostly protected from during the pandemic while masking and social distancing.

“Every week the numbers are unsurpassed going all the way back to the ‘09 previous influenza pandemic,” said Baptist Memorial Hospital Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Stephen Threlkeld. “We’re seeing a really bad flu year.”

The latest data from the Tennessee Department of Health shows health facilities in Shelby County have seen more than 10,000 people during the week of Nov. 6 - 12 almost 2,000 of them had an influenza-like illness.

Dr. Threlkeld says doctors predicted an earlier flu season and Memphis hospitals are prepared.

“Nobody wants to see it come back of COVID in conjunction with the worst flu year we’ve had in over 10 years and an early picking RSV,” Threlkeld said. “That could overwhelm anybody that’s why we need to just continue just have common sense like getting our flu vaccine and avoiding unnecessary cases.”

Other health systems in Memphis like Regional One, St. Francis, and Methodist Le Bohnuer are seeing the same thing - high cases of the flu in emergency rooms but not nearly any cases of RSV and COVID.

Dr. Taylor says the best way you can protect yourself and loved ones is to get your flu shot and updated COVID boosters and if all else fails call a doctor if you get sick.

“Stay home take care of yourself and definitely if it’s within the first five days, give your provider a call and say ‘Hey I think I’m sick, do I need to come in to get tested or if I don’t can I go and get an antiviral and lessen the course of this thing so I can go out enjoy the rest of my holiday?’”

Dr. Taylor says you can get a COVID shot and the flu vaccine at the same time.

Think about getting either shot especially if you are high risk or could be around loved ones who are high risk.

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