INDIANAPOLIS — It’s the beginning of Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Flu season — which generally starts in September and can go into May.
This fall, there’s also a threat of rising COVID cases and hospitalizations.
It’s known as the 'tripledemic' — Covid-19, RSV, and the Flu.
IU Health expert Tom Duszynski says the combination of these three viruses can cause a serious risk of hospitalization, being admitted to the ICU or death.
That’s especially true for people with compromised, immature, or weakened immune systems.
“There are similarities in the symptoms. Most of it is respiratory symptoms like coughing and congestion and things like that. With COVID, we’ve seen some loss of taste and smell, although there’s a variant out there now that doesn’t cause that. You can have sore throat and congestion in the head, like a runny nose. All can be present in any of those three viruses," the Director of Epidemiology Education at Richard M.Fairbanks School of Public Health, IUPUI Campus said.
A historical first: three vaccines to protect against the three biggest respiratory threats are available for adults this year.
The FDA approved the new RSV vaccine, approved for adults ages 60 and up, in May.
“We now have an RSV vaccine, which we’ve never had before. We have a COVID vaccine booster that’s coming this fall, as well as the influenza vaccine. Getting vaccinated, knowing your risk are ways you can prevent getting ill," Duszynski said.
A CVS Health survey finds that 75% of people who plan to receive their flu shot, plan to do so before November.
Nurse Practitioner Shannon Cook says the healthcare company is increasing access to these vaccines this season.
“The best time to get it is before October, but if you haven’t received it before the end of October, it’s still good to get it any time within the flu season," Cook said.
COVID-19 vaccinations are available at no cost for all patients, and flu vaccines are available at no cost with most insurance plans, including Medicare Part B.
A new COVID booster is expected to be available this month.
“It’s important to be vaccinated — it’s your best chance at staying out of the hospital. If not for yourself, for your loved ones, so that you can keep grandma out of the hospital or someone whose immune system may not be robust as your own," she said.
Here's what health experts recommend to protect you this season:
- First, get vaccinated early.
- Second, if you are ill, stay home and contact your doctor
- Third, wash your hands.
- Fourth, avoid large gathers indoors. If you can’t avoid them, wearing a face mask if you’re in a high-risk category.