RSV, COVID, and Flu — A Tripledemic Surge

As the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, we’re seeing the rise of a tripledemic—concurrent surges of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and influenza (the flu). The result? Severe cases of RSV landed many children and seniors in the hospital, overwhelming emergency rooms and putting extreme pressure on the healthcare system. 

RSV is the unexpected culprit behind increased demand for emergency services at children’s hospitals across the nation. The first hint that the typical RSV season might change became apparent when Rabia Agha, MD, Division Director of Pediatric Infectious Disease, Maimonides Children’s Hospital and other physicians at Maimonides reported “an unexpected, out of season rise in RSV infections during the spring of 2021.”

At that time, they were unsure of what to expect in subsequent RSV seasons, especially following uncharacteristically mild RSV seasons in fall and winter 2020 and 2021 — likely a result of mask-wearing and social distancing campaigns to mitigate COVID-19 transmission.  

Maimonides Prepared for a Surge in RSV Cases

Dedicated and proactive physicians, nurses, and staff in the Maimonides’ Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) were ready when parents began seeking care for their children with severe RSV. Their preparations made all the difference for so many families in Brooklyn, and allowed them to treat up to twice as many PICU patients. 

“We developed the ability to flex PICU capacity with additional beds to accommodate more children who needed intensive care,” shared Tsoline Kojaoghlanian, MD, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist, Maimonides Children’s Hospital.  

And they did all of this without compromising the high quality of care Maimonides patients expect. 

RSV, a More Complex Health Concern for Children of All Ages 

This year’s sudden and severe outbreak of RSV may have set the stage for what’s to come. Previous RSV seasons typically caused severe illness among children two years and younger, but that’s not the case anymore. 

“This year’s RSV surge is concerning for a couple of reasons,” Dr. Kojaoghlanian explains. ”First, its earlier onset, and second, it’s hospitalizing more older children than in previous RSV seasons.”

Luckily, the COVID-19 surge hasn’t led to additional hospitalizations among kids so far. “COVID numbers are increasing as the winter approaches, but it hasn’t led to an increase in COVID-related admissions for children,” said Dr. Agha. 

Similarly, flu season began earlier this year, and Maimonides is seeing increased pediatric admissions as other hospitals have across the US. “We‘ve started seeing pediatric flu admissions in the past few weeks, and are expecting high numbers to continue, as in other pre-pandemic influenza seasons,” shared Dr. Kojaoghlanian. 

Preventive measures may make all the difference

The best way to keep kids healthy as experts continue monitoring the tripledemic is by taking appropriate precautions. There are several ways to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like these.  

  • Keep pediatric patients up to date with their vaccine schedule including seasonal influenza vaccine
  • Emphasize handwashing for both parents and children.
  • Encourage patients of all ages to stay home if they feel sick 

Taking steps to prevent the spread of RSV, COVID-19, and the flu helps protect everyone in the community. And if that fails, patients in Brooklyn can rely on the skilled healthcare providers at Maimonides for first-class care. 

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