The Winter Tripledemic: What it is and How to Stay Safe
Winter is here, which means cold, frigid temperatures are forcing more people to stay inside. As we socialize indoors, visiting family and friends for the holidays, we’re spending more time together in enclosed spaces which can be a breeding ground for germs and viruses to spread. Viruses replicate better and are more stable in low temperatures with less humidity, which is why they flourish in the wintertime.
During the past few years, when there were more restrictions such as masking, social distancing, capacity limits, and closures, fewer Americans were exposed to other viruses outside of COVID-19. However, now that those restrictions have lifted, we’re seeing viruses hit a much less protected and less immune population at rapid speeds.
The Tripledemic Surge
There is increased concern that the surge in cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is overlapping with an uptick in COVID-19 transmission and an “earlier than usual” flu season, causing a “tripledemic.” In addition, these respiratory illnesses appeared much earlier and in more people than in previous years.
Pediatric hospitals are especially strained due to the recent surge. Most children typically get the virus before the age of 2, but with COVID prevention measures over the past few years, many children weren’t exposed to the virus, making RSV particularly bad this year. Unfortunately, now more children are susceptible to RSV, and they’re interacting with each other at school and daycares causing it to spread rapidly.
Understanding the Three Viruses
As impressive as our immune systems are, our bodies are likely to encounter multiple viruses this season—perhaps even simultaneously. COVID-19, Influenza, and RSV are all highly contagious respiratory infections caused by different viruses. These viruses affect your respiratory system — the network of tissues and organs that help you breathe.
There are many similarities between the three viruses, but there are several differences to look out for to help you differentiate them.
RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus)
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially for infants and older adults. RSV is very contagious, mutates quickly, and can be spread when:
- An infected person coughs or sneezes – especially if you get virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- You’re in direct contact with the virus (i.e., kissing the face of a child with RSV)
- You touch a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touch your face before washing your hands.
RSV can survive on hard surfaces such as tables and crib rails for many hours. However, it typically lives on soft surfaces such as tissues and hands for a shorter amount of time.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Most people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.
COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. The most common symptoms are:
- Loss of taste or smell
Less common symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Aches and pains
- A rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes
- Red or irritated eyes
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Loss of speech or mobility or confusion
- Chest pain
Cases of Influenza have begun to tick up earlier than usual and are expected to soar over the coming weeks. Influenza (flu) can cause mild to severe illness and, at times, can lead to death. Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly. The most common symptoms for those who have the flu are:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
Tips on How to Stay Healthy
If you don’t take the proper precautions to keep yourself and others around you safe, the combination of COVID-19, flu, and RSV could continue to stress the healthcare system this winter season. So here are some tips on how to stay healthy this winter:
- Get vaccinated – stay up to date on your COVID-19 and flu vaccines.
- Sanitize and disinfect high-contact surfaces – this is especially important with viruses like RSV that stay on hard surfaces for hours.
- Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer regularly.
- Consider wearing a mask indoors, especially at crowded events or gatherings.
- Avoid close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils with others.
- Stay home when you are sick – this will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
Safetec has a number of solutions to help you stay safe and combat the “tripledemic” this year. The simple act of cleaning hands can reduce illness by helping prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Safetec offers several hand hygiene solutions to help keep your hands free of germs and meet the CDC handwashing recommendations.
Safetec manufactures two EPA-registered surface disinfectant lines that, according to the emerging viral pathogen claim, are effective against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, Influenza, and RSV.