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What is a tripledemic? Here’s how to stay safe over the holidays

Hooray! With less than one month between now and Christmas, many of us are busy shopping, reserving dinner tables, adorning our homes with Christmas items, and organising parties and gatherings. And who can blame us for that? For many of us, this will be the first Christmas in three years when we can really have a good time with family and friends.

But if you think COVID-19 is ebbing, and we can all party like there is no tomorrow, you’d better think again. Not only does COVID-19 remain a threat, but two other viruses are rearing their ugly heads – the RSV (respiratory syncytial virus – a common and highly contagious respiratory virus that causes cold-like symptoms) and the flu virus. Some medical experts are worried that a potential “tripledemic” is just around the corner, which is why this Pacific Prime UK article covers what you need to know and how to keep safe this winter.

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So what is a tripledemic?

Not an official scientific term yet, “tripledemic” is a term medical experts have coined to refer to a partly overlapped peaking of RSV, flu, and COVID-19 that may cause hospital emergency departments to be overwhelmed.

It’s not by pure coincidence that these three viruses converge – there have been fewer RSV and flu cases over the past couple of years, exactly because measures against the spread of COVID-19 had included social distancing, masking and other precautions. These measures slowed down not only the spread of COVID-19, but RSV and the flu as well.

Infections to increase in winter 2022

Now that no coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions are in force in the UK, we are once again exposed to RSV and the flu virus. In normal times, most kids will have been exposed to RSV by their second birthday, thus possessing some immunity making future infections less dangerous. That explains why the current spike of RSV poses a particular threat to very young children, most of whom have been quite effectively shielded from RSV from the day they were born. Like many other infections, RSV is also more dangerous for the very old, and people with a compromised immune system or underlying health conditions.

A similar thing is happening with flu cases. Reduced exposure to the flu virus over the past few years has led to a decline in our collective immunity against it. It’s a foregone conclusion that flu cases will increase this winter.

How worried should we be

Luckily, it’s not all gloom and doom. There are two reasons why our immediate future is nowhere nearly as bleak as the above discussion may seem to suggest.

For starters, we know a lot about RSV and have effective treatments for them. Although presently, there is no vaccine for RSV, several are in development. Premature babies or babies with a medical condition may qualify for RSV antibody injections to help prevent severe complications.

And just like the COVID-19 vaccines, the influenza vaccine may not provide a complete shield, but it very effectively keeps you from becoming seriously ill and needing hospitalisation, or dying.

Furthermore, there are strong indications that RSV and the flu virus are not going to peak simultaneously. RSV usually spikes in December or January, but it started significantly earlier this year, with many cases occurring as early as in the summer. What is hoped is that RSV dies down similarly sooner, so that our medical professionals won’t be fighting a war on two fronts (or three fronts if you add COVID-19 to the mix) all at once.

And here’s what we can do to stay safe

Now we come to the most important topic of staying safe, and here’s what we can do:

   1. Wash hands frequently and clean easily contaminated surfaces often

While COVID-19 is transmitted in the air, both RSV and the flu virus can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces.

   2. Follow respiratory etiquettes

The flu virus can be transmitted in the air and on surfaces, so respiratory etiquettes, such as coughing into a tissue and then disposing of it immediately in the rubbish bin, are crucial in preventing the spread of diseases.

   3. Avoid contact with people who may be sick

If you or someone in close contact is sick, stay away from others until your symptoms are over and you no longer have a fever.

   4. Be vigilant, especially if you have a newborn at home

Newborns and very young children are particularly vulnerable, so only let people with good personal hygiene and no symptoms go near them.

   5. Get properly vaccinated

In a way, you are like your computer. One of the best ways to protect your computer against viruses and other attacks is by seeing it has up-to-date antivirus installed, and by getting your flu shot and seeing you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination (including the new bivalent booster), you are doing yourself a big favour.

   6. Avoid big crowds

It’s almost inevitable that some people in a big crowd are sick with one or more of the three viruses.

   7. Take a rapid test before joining others

If everybody does that, the risks of infection can be further reduced.

   8. Call your physician and emergency service sensibly

If you or someone in your household is not feeling well but still looks well, you should call your family physician. In emergency situations, naturally, calling the emergency service is the right thing to do. But using emergency services sensibly help make them available to people who really need them. So only call 999 if you or someone with you is in a life-threatening situation and requires immediate medical intervention.

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Get in touch with Pacific Prime UK today!

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Not only can Pacific Prime UK tailor a plan that meets all of your needs and fits your budget at the same price as going straight to an insurer, but we are there with you every step of the way and will stand up for you when you need us most. The benefits of securing insurance via a reputable brokerage like Pacific Prime UK are most obvious when you need to make a claim, because as your brokerage, we will serve your interest first and foremost.

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Content Creator at Pacific Prime UK
Martin is a writer and translator with over 10 years of experience. He writes articles and blog posts, creates infographics and videos, translates between Chinese and English, and more. Skilled at explaining complicated concepts in layman’s terms, Martin believes the gold standard of translation is attained when the translated text is not only accurate, but also reads like an original text. Martin holds a degree in Economics from the University of London, UK.

Since joining Pacific Prime, Martin has become even more aware of the gap between the true value of insurance products and most people’s appreciation of it, and developed a passion for demystifying and simplifying matters, so that more people get the protection they need at a cost they can easily afford.

In his free time, Martin attends concerts of various genres, and plays the violin with piano accompaniment he pre-recorded himself or played live by his niece.
Martin Lee