Holidays, family gatherings raise risk of “tridemic”

With holiday gatherings coming up, flu, COVID-19 and RSV cases are all on the rise
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 10:20 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - As temperatures start to fall, cases of flu, COVID-19 and RSV are on the rise across the country. Experts are calling this year’s trio of sicknesses a “tridemic.”

November 17 is the three-year anniversary of the first person seen with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China. IN 2022, we are in what doctors see as a tridemic, where three respiratory illnesses are peaking at about the same time.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) says the holidays could bring more cases than we’ve seen before because of family gatherings.

According to DHS statistics, Northeast Wisconsin is already above the baseline and threshold for the percentage of cases of flu-like viruses, sitting at 3½ percent.

It is the only region in the state above both lines, and it looks to be on the rise.

“We need to be aware of how, as we live in an environment that has multiple different respiratory viruses, how can we protect us ... how can we protect ourselves from the ones that are particularly scary like flu and COVID,” Dr. Ryan Westergaard, chief medical officer of the DHS Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said.

But you can’t forget about RSV. Almost 2,300 new cases were found in the week ending November 5. Not all of them were children or seniors who are immuno-compromised.

“Anyone can get RSV,” said DHS influenza survillance coordinator Tom Haupt, who’s also a respiratory disease epidemiologist, “and there seems to be a little bit of false information going on that only people who are very young and maybe very old can get it, but, in fact, everybody is susceptible to RSV. But a perfectly healthy adult is going to have very minor symptoms.”

DHS says this means you can come into contact with someone who may be sick but doesn’t look it.

That makes your Thanksgiving or Christmas family gathering a possible spreader event, and that could overwhelm hospitals that are already on the edge.

“You don’t want to say don’t [go to family gatherings], but if there’s any kind of symptomology going on, you really can’t tell any virus apart based on the symptomology. And, we certainly don’t want people to start thinking that, ‘Oh, they got a negative home test for COVID’ or that they’re free of everything and they can start doing what they want. We want people to be aware. We want people to be smart,” Haupt said.

DHS suggests 6 ways to help avoid getting sick this holiday season:

  • Limit contact with those who are sick
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your face as much as possible
  • Cover your mouth for coughs and sneezes
  • Disinfect surfaces that are used regularly
  • and get vaccinated