woman sick at home on couch blowing nose
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
November 5, 2022 ·  4 min read

Experts Warn of ‘Tripledemic’ Threat This Season

Our first winter without COVID restrictions is quickly approaching, and experts warn that it might be a tough one. After watching much of the southern hemisphere suffer with higher than normal rates of illness, including still other variants of COVID, doctors in this half of the world are worried. They are warning us of what they are calling a tripledemic: A steep rise in cases of COVID, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. This is how they are suggesting we prepare.

Experts Warn of a Tripledemic Coming Our Way This Cold And Flu Season

Last winter, most countries still had travel restrictions, testing requirements, and mask mandates in place. Though they were there to protect against the transmission of COVID-19, they did a whole lot more than that. The number of flu cases and other illnesses also were far lower than usual. While this may have been a bonus for cold-prone people, there is a negative side: Our immune systems didn’t get the usual seasonal boost that comes along with cold and flu season.

Because of this, doctors are already seeing a rise in COVID and the flu – and it isn’t even winter yet. On top of each of those viruses, they are also seeing an increase in RSV, a respiratory illness that typically only affects babies and children. Doctors are calling it a “tripledemic” and warning that we need to prepare ourselves. (1)

In fact, children’s hospitals are already feeling pressure from this historic increase in RSV cases. There are schools that have had to close for days at a time and cancel extracurriculars because half of the student body has all become sick. Texas and Georgia are reporting particularly high numbers, and a Virginia high school saw a half of their students, about 1000 teens, fall ill. Other states that are seeing an early surge include Tennessee, South Carolina, New York, and the District of Columbia.

The reasons, as already mentioned, is due to decreased herd immunity coupled with sudden re-socialization. People are traveling, going to concerts, and getting together again. They’re doing all of this of course without social distancing and without wearing masks. Added to this, experts say, is vaccine fatigue. Less people than usual have gotten their flu shot so far this year.

“There’s this concept out there right now going around — vaccine fatigue, where people are simply getting tired of recommendations and ideas that we all need to vaccinate,” said Dr. Dhaval Desai, director of hospital medicine at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta. (2)

Read: Study: Common Stomach Virus Linked to Crohn’s Disease

Increased Demand For Medications

Hospitals, particularly children’s hospitals, aren’t the only ones feeling the squeeze. Pharmacies also are concerned about what a tripledemic might mean for them. They have to order the medications that they need. An unpredictable rise in demand for certain antiviral medications, among others, is a challenge. The concern is, of course, that there won’t be enough to meet demand.

Antivirals essentially work by helping to decrease the severity of an illness, and can also potentially decrease its length. This means that they can prevent patients from becoming so sick that they need hospital care. The timing of these medications, however, is critical.

“The key is that they need to be given as early as possible in the viral phase of the disease when the virus is very actively replicating. That is usually within 48 hours of noticing symptoms,” said Dr. Luis Ostrosky, an infectious disease specialist at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann in Houston. He says that if these antivirals are taken after the 48-hour mark, their effect is greatly reduced.

Dr. Ostrosky says that supply is not the issue, but ordering and stock are. Most pharmacies weren’t expecting to have to order so many antiviral medications so soon. Usually, cold and flu season doesn’t kick off until December or January. This sudden surge has really caught them off-guard.

How To Protect You And Your Family

Doctors are still all saying that the best way to protect against getting the flu is getting the flu shot. Though it may or may not prevent you from getting sick, it will help you to have reduced severity. As for COVID, staying up-to-date on the most recent vaccines is also the best way to stay protected. There is not currently a vaccine for RSV, so if your child is sick you should keep them at home and monitor their symptoms. Don’t send them back until they are all better to reduce the spread of the illness.

Keep Reading: Family reveals ordeal of 2-year-old son in hospital with 3 viruses simultaneously


  1. ‘Uncharted Territory’: Covid, Flu, RSV Infections All Expected To Rise.” KHN. October 24, 2022.
  2. Flu antivirals are already in high demand, catching pharmacies ‘off guard’ and causing concern for rest of season.” Today. Caroline Kee. October 18, 2022.