LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– With colder months ahead, it’s become increasingly important to protect oneself from the “tripledemic” that communities across the nation face.
Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, told 8 News Now exactly what people can expect with multiple viruses floating around.
Tripledemic: What is it?
“The ‘tripledemic’ is referring to the fact that at the moment, there are three major winter respiratory viruses out there that are very active,” Dr. Schaffner said. “Of course, number one is COVID.” “Influenza came four to six weeks early and began to infect people in a very vigorous way.” The third, Dr. Schaffner explained, is RSV, which stands for Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
“Long thought to be exclusively a virus that affects children, particularly very young children, we now know that RSV also can affect older persons,” Dr. Shaffner said. “Particularly those who have underlying lung disease and heart disease.”
Anything else people need to worry about?
If three respiratory viruses weren’t enough, the public is also facing a “superbug,” which Dr. Schaffner told 8 News Now is called Candida Auris. “It’s a fungus belonging to a family of fungi, that’s usually pretty benign,” Dr. Schaffner said. “This is a fungus that many of us have in our bodies, and we never notice it.”
However, the doctor explained that the prevailing variant is much more serious. “It generally hovers around hospitals, infecting people who are otherwise already very ill and receiving antibiotics,” he said. “When it infects these people, it can get into their bloodstream and cause other infections in organ systems. And to make the challenge even greater. It’s often somewhat difficult to treat because it can be resistant to some of the antifungal drugs that we usually use.”
Dr. Schaffner noted that despite the potential difficulty of treating this fungal variant, there are treatments and hospitals are equipped to handle it.
How concerned should parents be?
When it comes to RSV, parents should keep an eye out for early symptoms. “This is a virus that when it first infects you is usually the most severe,” Dr. Shaffner explained, “it produces the symptoms of a bad common cold, but particularly in very young children.”
“So if your young child at this time of the year or any time of the year really has stopped eating, is not taking fluids, or looks poorly, and particularly if they have any difficulty breathing, please take them to a health care provider very, very quickly,” Dr. Shaffner concluded.
What can we do?
As for what people can do to protect themselves, Dr. Schaffner suggested getting vaccinated for both COVID and influenza. He also stressed good hand hygiene. “RSV can get on your fingers, then if you touch your nose or mouth, you can infect yourself,” he said.
If one does find themself ill, Dr. Schaffner suggests contacting their medical provider. Not necessarily visiting the doctor’s office, as that may put others at risk. “Contact them, because we have treatments, particularly for COVID,” he said, “and for influenza that can ameliorate the severity of those infections.”
He also said it may be appropriate to dust off that mask. “Particularly for people at high risk of the complications of both these viruses, older people, people who have underlying illnesses, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, people who are immune compromised,” he explained.