The US may very well face what has been dubbed a “tripledemic” this winterThe flu and a virus called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have been on the rise at the same time.
RSV cases are rising rapidly among young children, who usually become infected with the virus by the age of 3, but are protected from it and other viruses during the pandemic lockdown period.
“Pediatric ICUs across the country, many parts of it, are full,” said CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus. He said most hospitalizations now are related to influenza and RSV, not COVID-19.
According to Dr. Michael Mina, EMed’s chief science officer and the nation’s leading epidemiologist, the threat of a “tripledemic” is nothing new.
“Public health officials have been prepared for this possibility since the early stages of the pandemic,” he said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.
Americans’ weakened immunity — a result of traveling and limiting contact with others during the COVID-19 pandemic — is the reason for a simultaneous surge in cases of three different viruses.
“The recent surge is the entirely anticipated result of a new virus that caused massive changes in human behavior. We know that immunity is working exactly as it should, and in this case , that means we haven’t reduced population-level immunity to exposure,” Dr. Meena said.
Dr. Meena urged hospitals to prepare now by identifying ways to increase capacity by stockpiling supplies and adding new beds.
The simultaneous rise in cases of the three different viruses comes as more professionals are leaving the health care field for work that pays better or is less physically and emotionally draining, further straining the country’s strained health care system. could put you in danger.
“I worry that hospitals, health care providers, are going to be overwhelmed,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, CBS News medical contributor and Kaiser Health News editor-at-large. “We’re seeing very high rates of both flu and RSV, so probably something like 35,000 hospitalizations per week from those two conditions.”
Of course, COVID-19 is still around. Gounder said, “Are we going to be ready, do we have beds? I’m really worried about that.”
unmanned hospital beds
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is now a vaccine available for RSV, a common respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms but which can be serious in infants and older adults.
Recently, there has been an increase in RSV cases in very young children., Young children are particularly susceptible to developing severe symptoms because their immune systems are underdeveloped and their airways are smaller than those of adults, making it harder to breathe when inflamed.
The health care system is also grappling with a low labor force following an exodus of health care workers from the field due to mass burnout during the pandemic. That means even more work falls into the laps of nurses, doctors and administrative and support staff who remain in the industry.
Some 330,000 medical professionals are set to drop out of the labor force in 2021, according to health care commercial intelligence company Definitive Healthcare.
“It’s even more difficult, [with] Even fewer employees, more people burn out and leave,” Gounder said.
looking for a better balance
Some physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other providers quit their jobs to retire early, while others decided to seek administrative work and stop seeing patients.
“So it’s just different kinds of ways to reduce that burnout of a better work-life balance, which frankly, has been really hard on people over the years,” Gounder said.
Gounder said she is already seeing the impact of limited staffing on patients receiving care at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.
“Patients are sitting in the emergency room for a day or two waiting for a bed, because it’s not just about having a physical bed — you need doctors, nurses, other staff to be in that bed,” she said.
“The whole system is really full right now,” she said.
Workers from various sectors quit their jobs in search of better wages and working conditions during the so-called “,
According to Gounder, there is no clear solution or clear way to bring more professionals back into the medical field, and although higher pay won’t hurt, better pay alone won’t fix the issue.
“I think people are valuing their time in a completely different way now, and I think this will really require rethinking the business model of health care, really changing how we do health care.” How do we structure that, how do we provide it, who provides it,” he said. “I have some doubts that we’re going to make those changes.”