For years there has been talk of the so-called “tripledemic” of RSV, COVID-19 and flu, and with good reason. When life largely returned to normal after the pandemic began, RSV and flu cases increased as COVID-19 cases continued to appear. Now, respiratory virus season generally means that people across the country will face a wave of these three viruses. Despite this, a new poll shows that many Americans really don’t care.
The survey, conducted by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, surveyed more than 1,000 adults in the U.S. and found that 35% are not concerned about an increase in respiratory virus cases. The survey also found that 66% believe they will improve quickly if they get the flu or COVID-19, and about 33% believe they do not need to get vaccinated against the flu or COVID-19 if they are not considered at high risk for serious complications from The diseases.
“One of the lessons we have learned from the COVID pandemic is that the respiratory virus landscape can change rapidly, as can the public’s attitudes and beliefs about communicable respiratory diseases,” said Dr. Megan Conroy, pulmonologist. and assistant clinical professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center who worked on the survey, tells Yahoo Life. “It is important for us to understand how people think and feel about protecting themselves and others from respiratory viruses.”
Doctors say the findings are worrying. This is why.
Why aren’t many people worried about RSV, flu and COVID-19?
Many people don’t seem to care about the potential health risks of contracting these viruses, and doctors say they’re not surprised. “Many people are not concerned because they may be at a lower risk for serious illness, or they perceive themselves to be that way,” Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, tells Yahoo Life. Johns Hopkins for Health Security. People have also learned to better estimate risk over the course of the pandemic and have begun to apply it to respiratory viruses, he says.
Many also understand that RSV, flu, and COVID-19 are endemic; In other words, they’re not going away, Adalja says. As a result, they have just learned to live with viruses.
The general population’s opinion of COVID-19, a virus that once caused daily routines to grind to a halt, has also changed, Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University of California, tells Yahoo Life. Buffalo in New York. . “Most people believe that since almost everyone has had some combination of prior infection, vaccination, or both, they are largely protected,” he says. “But what they are missing is that the protection decreases over time and the virus evolves to evade that protection.”
While Russo says public health is now in the “best place” since the pandemic began, “there are still a significant number of people who have poor outcomes on a daily basis.” COVID-19, for example, causes an average of 2.5% of deaths in the US each week, and the flu can cause up to 52,000 deaths in the US each year. RSV is responsible for up to 10,000 deaths in adults over 65 years of age each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“A lot of people also think, ‘I’m not immunocompromised, I’m not an old person, so I’m fine,'” Russo says. “But even though you’re statistically in a better place, no one’s risk is zero.”
Many people are also experiencing lingering pandemic fatigue, Conroy says. “People are tired of worrying about respiratory viruses,” he says. “I get it. Even as a pulmonologist and critical care doctor who lived and worked during the pandemic, I’m tired of worrying about it, too.”
Conroy emphasizes that people don’t necessarily need to worry about these diseases. Instead, he recommends being aware that they are out there and doing everything you can to protect yourself. “Awareness and understanding of what actions help protect us, individually and collectively, from having our lives changed again by viral seasons is valuable,” Conroy says.
Who should get vaccinated?
Recommendations for flu and COVID vaccines are similar: The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age receive both vaccines. RSV is a little different. There is currently an RSV vaccine available for people ages 60 and older that is designed to protect against the virus. There is also a vaccine for pregnant women and an immunization medication for babies under 8 months old and those who are entering their first RSV season.
How to protect yourself from RSV, flu and COVID
Doctors say protecting yourself from these viruses starts with getting the vaccines they recommend. “Think of vaccines as tools that can be used to manage risk,” Adalja says. Russo acknowledges that you can still contract these viruses if you get vaccinated. “People talk about how they got vaccinated and got infected, but it’s about minimizing serious illness,” she says. “They turn a potentially serious illness into a mild illness.”
Wearing a mask can be helpful when respiratory virus cases are high in your area, Conroy says. “We know that masks (specifically surgical masks, KN95 and N95) can be very helpful in protecting you from getting sick if you are exposed, even around someone who is sick,” she says. “That’s why we use them to take care of these patients in the hospital.” She recommends wearing a mask when you’re most likely to be exposed to sick people, such as when traveling or at the grocery store, especially if you’re considered high risk for complications from the virus or are simply trying to minimize it. the chances of you getting sick.
Finally, Russo recommends washing your hands frequently and thoroughly.
There’s a chance you could do everything right and still contract a respiratory virus this year. “If you get sick and feel particularly sick or are at high risk of developing into a more severe illness, for both COVID and the flu we have antiviral medications that can help you feel better faster, but they usually need to be started.” . early,” says Conroy. “So, contact your doctor. “If it’s mild enough, consider telehealth visits to continue isolating at home and not spread more virus.”