Are the flu, COVID, RSV surges finally peaking? Expert says maybe, and no

ByZach Fuentes and Lindsey Feingold KGO logo
Saturday, December 17, 2022
Is the 'tripledemic' finally peaking?
Is the "tripledemic" of the flu, COVID and RSV finally peaking? Here's what expert says.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- New data is creating some new optimism, and apprehension, about the '"tripledemic" virus surge of the flu, COVID-19, and RSV.

While all three viruses are still at levels not seen for years, RSV appears to have peaked with national hospitalizations sharply declining over the last month. But, new flu hospitalization numbers released Friday by the CDC and COVID-19 data from the California Department of Public Health are painting a picture that continues to have healthcare professionals concerned.

According to data from the CDC, flu numbers are higher during this time period than any year since 2015. Hospitalization rates were lower than many pre-pandemic years in 2020 and 2021.

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"The influenza season started faster and earlier, because we usually see these types of surges in January or February," ABC7 special correspondent Dr. Alok Patel said.

An earlier surge doesn't necessarily mean we're close to a peak for the flu. Patel says this flu season could be longer than normal. Currently, flu hospitalizations are still rising nationally.

The story for RSV is different. The latest RSV hospitalization rates from the CDC show the peak may have been last month, but doctors say a risk remains.

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"What we're seeing this year is one of the worst RSV seasons that myself and my colleagues have ever seen in decades," Dr. Patel said. "A really high amount of cases going to the outpatient, so those are kids who are sick, but also a lot of cases coming to the emergency department, urgent cares, hospital settings, and ICUs."

CDC data shows that most of the RSV hospitalizations are for young children 0 to 4.

Similar to the flu, COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise. In the Bay Area, CDPH data shows hospitalizations are nearing what we saw during the last peak in the summer.

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The metric we focused on when looking at the data are hospitalizations, not cases, since many infections are not reported.

"Hospitalizations are a very important metric because that basically tells us how good we're doing at protecting our high risk vulnerable crowd," Patel said.

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With the daunting data that continues to come out, doctors remind everyone that in addition to getting flu and COVID-19 vaccines, some of the best ways to protect yourself and your family are some of the easiest.

"It really comes down to basic hygiene, like handwashing, and telling anyone who has cold or flu symptoms to stay away from your house," Patel said, "At some point, these viruses are going to run out of hosts have people to infect, so they're going to slowly slow down their spread."

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