The term tripledemic describes three viruses – influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and covid, emerging in population at same time this winter. Because of the last two years of staying at home and a lot of virtual activities, many children have not been exposed to these viruses. Thus, several children are going to the emergency room as they lack immunity from prior infection. Many pediatric hospitals are nearing capacity with kids fighting RSV. We are no longer wearing a mask, not doing proper social distance which is making these contagious viruses to infect many people in short span of time.
Health officials are growing worried about this ‘tripledemic’ surging in winter season. People who are most likely to get infected are infants, toddlers, and adults over 65 years of age. Emergency rooms are already feeling the impact of an earlier than normal surge. We don’t really see it in fall, but it happened earlier this year possibly because of low immunity against these illnesses. Data from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the corona virus is still spreading and claiming lives, with United States reporting 260,000 new cases over a week and over 2500 deaths.
What are these viruses?
Let’s first begin with understanding a common illness called Flu. Influenza has been around for a thousand years. What’s the secret to its long existence? The fact that it is constantly changing its form is particularly important for its long presence. Seasonal influenza is a respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses which circulate in all parts of the world. There are three types of influenza viruses that infect humans. These are type a, b, c. Type ‘a’ and ‘b’ commonly circulate to cause seasonal epidemics. The flu has killed millions of people for example, in 1918, a flu pandemic infected one third of the world’s population. It led to around fifty million deaths in just two years. In temperate climate, seasonal epidemics occur during winter, from October to March in the northern hemisphere and April to September in the southern hemisphere. In tropical regions, it may occur throughout the year. The most common symptoms are:
- High fever
- Muscle and joint pain
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
Most people recover from fever and other symptoms within a week without requiring any special medical attention. However, it can cause severe illness or death specially in people at elevated risk. Seasonal flu spreads easily with transmission in crowded areas. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, air droplets containing viruses are dispersed. Then a healthy person inhales these droplets thus finding a new host.
The second illness that will be discussed is Respiratory Syncytial Virus, popularly known as RSV. It causes infectious breathing passages in infants and young children. It can cause pneumonia and is a leading cause of bronchitis. It is spread by contact with infected secretions such as saliva and mucus from sneezing. RSV is most contagious during the first two to four days after an individual starts to feel ill. Infection can last between two and eight days, but symptoms can remain for up to three weeks. It occurs most often during winter and early spring. Most of the time, this virus causes minor cold like symptoms. However, for some babies, an RSV infection can be dangerous. It can be especially serious in premature babies and babies born with lung diseases. Signs and symptoms may include
- Fever with temperature above 100-degree Fahrenheit
- Runny nose
- Rapid and deep breathing
- Blue colored lips and fingernails
- Poor appetite
Lastly, illness that would be discussed is COVID or coronavirus. It is a disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. It is no new fact how severe and disastrous this can become. This virus belongs to a large family of viruses that get their name from the halo of spiked protein on their surface, resembling a crown. SARS-CoV-2 stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. It emerged as a new virus in 2019 and attained peak in January 2020. As a new virus, it means that previously no one has been infected with it. And therefore no one has developed antibodies against it. With the discovery of SARS-CoV- 2, there are now seven types of corona virus known to affect humans. Out of seven, four viruses are commonly circulating in the environment and cause mild upper respiratory tract infections. SARS-CoV-2 causes a disease called COVID 19, a severe respiratory illness. The virus spreads through droplets in the air after coughing or sneezing. It also spreads by touching a contaminated surface. Symptoms are same as common cold
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
Symptoms become more serious as virus starts making its way to our lungs. It can cause acute bronchitis and pneumonia.
In the general population covid, flu, RSV are usually mild and run their course without the need to seek medical attention. However, in young children and in those with preexisting asthma, these viruses can be serious and even life threatening.
- What can you do?
- Maintain a healthy diet, include berries, leafy vegetables, probiotic rich food.
- Practice good oral hygiene.
- Stay hydrated with water. Avoid soda and other sugar drinks.
- Limit or avoid alcohol consumption. Alcohol decreases the immune system.
- Have your vitamin D level checked as it helps in fighting the infection
- Avoid crowds and social functions.
- Disinfect surfaces.
- Get superior quality sleep and do lots of exercise.