December 14, 2022
The Atlantic reports the early and increased levels of flu and RSV are inundating hospitals nationwide. By mid-November, nearly 3/4ths of U.S. pediatric hospital beds were full. Some hospitals turned to lessons from the pandemic and set up tents outside their emergency departments to handle overflow. The surge led to a request for the administration to declare a state of emergency as well as planning for a potential second wave following the holiday season.
RSV and flu arrived earlier than normal to join COVID in the creation of the tripledemic. COVID mitigation factors are seen as contributing to the explosion in cases for the other viruses as masking and isolation lessened exposure to infants and children who would normally have encounters by now. Also, those who were pregnant during COVID may not have encountered the infections to pass along substantial antibodies.
While healthcare professionals work to manage the crisis and accept COVID-19 will likely continue to infect people, there are hopes that next year will be different. For one, the viruses and people’s bodies should be accustomed to a normal circulating pattern. The greater promise is a possible RSV vaccine expected to be approved by the FDA by next fall, along with approving an antibody therapy already in use in Europe. There is also interest in what role possible viral interference could play in limiting simultaneous spikes going forward.
The story notes none of those outcomes, however, are guaranteed. Even with an RSV vaccine, some parents may decide against having it administered to their children just as they have largely shunned the COVID-19 vaccine for the age group. There could also be a new COVID variant or novel flu strain that upsets expectations. Regardless, with new and established tools, better prepared immune systems, and pandemic-inspired knowledge, the next season of respiratory viruses may not be as disruptive.
Several PIDS members are noted in the story. Kathryn Edwards said, “Everything is happening at once. We had so little contagion during the time we were trying to keep COVID at bay.” Regarding virus occurrence, Asuncion Mejias added, “We just haven’t had a break…[a more regular calendar] will make our lives easier.” Mari Nakamura, Flor Muñoz Rivas, and Octavio Ramilo also appear.