Indiana Daily Student

How to avoid the upcoming 'tripledemic' this winter with respiratory viruses

<p>The IU Health Center is located at 10th Street and Eagleson Avenue. Medical professionals urge individuals to get a flu shot to combat an upcoming ‘tripledemic’ consisting of RSV, COVID-19 and the flu this winter.</p>

The IU Health Center is located at 10th Street and Eagleson Avenue. Medical professionals urge individuals to get a flu shot to combat an upcoming ‘tripledemic’ consisting of RSV, COVID-19 and the flu this winter.

Experts and doctors are expecting what they call a “tripledemic” to arrive this winter. This is due to a surge of COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV) cases.  

“All of these viruses can cause infection in IU students and can result in increased morbidity, loss of time from work or school and risk of transmission to others,” Tom Hrisomalos, medical director of infection protection at IU Health South Central Region, said. “Being aware will allow students to take actions to decrease their risk.” 

According to an article by NBC News, it was reported that 76% of pediatric hospital beds nationwide were full due to respiratory virus infections. 

Related: [‘Tripledemic’ of respiratory viruses overloads Indiana hospitals]

“Influenza cases have markedly increased this fall and the early spread of influenza is unlike what we have seen in many years,” Hrisomalos said. “Likewise, there has been an increase in RSV cases in infants and children and an increase in hospitalizations.” 

In the past two years, there has been decreased exposure to RSV and influenza because of transmission precautions such as mask mandates. Now that these precautions have been loosened, there is an increase in respiratory illness, Hrisomalos said.   

Sophomore neuroscience student Katelyn Wo volunteers at the IU Health Bloomington Hospital. Her main responsibilities include directing patients to their appointment, helping those in wheelchairs get to their cars and visits and assisting hospital staff when needed. 

“As a volunteer, I don’t know too many specifics about the status of different resources around the hospital, but just from an outside perspective, it definitely seems like there has been an influx of the amount of people coming into the hospital for visits in the last month or two,” Wo said. 

Since September, nearly 4,000 students have received flu shots at the Student Health Center. However, Rupp said this number is less than previous years. 

“We have had an increase, especially in flu cases, in November, and we have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases this week after the holidays,” Beth Rupp, medical director of the Student Health Center, said. “I don’t know how many people have RSV, but I am sure it is also circulating and causing some respiratory symptoms in some people. Plus, there are many other upper respiratory illnesses circulating besides these three, so there are a lot of people that are sick right now.” 

Hrisomalos suggests the easiest and most effective way to stay safe from the “tripledemic” this winter is getting vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu. He says the bivalent COVID-19 booster works to decrease the risk of getting affected with the illness and the severity of the symptoms. Rupp encourages students to continue hand washing and covering coughs.  

Related: [IU Student Health Center opens COVID-19 bivalent booster clinic]

From Dec. 5-7, the Student Health Center will be offering COVID-19 bivalent booster clinics to students by appointment only. Flu shots continue to be offered with no appointment needed from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Pharmacy located on the second floor.   

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