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The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

The Student News Site of Van Nuys High School

The Mirror

RSV. Flu. Covid. What to know as we enter this ‘tripledemic’ holiday season

With growing reports of the respiratory virus RSV in young children, Flu season just beginning, and COVID-19 cases on the rise, we are experiencing the threat of a ‘tripledemic.’

With growing reports of the respiratory virus RSV in young children, Flu season just beginning, and COVID-19 cases on the rise, we are experiencing the threat of a ‘tripledemic.’

The term ‘tripledemic’ is not one you can find in any dictionary. In fact, this might be the first time you’ve heard about it. While flu is a common sickness this time of year, people are now facing the possibility of infection by three viruses at once — a tripledemic.

What is RSV and should we be worried?

RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus and causes respiratory infections. The young and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. 

“I definitely think that many people have never even heard of RSV,” Dr. Sharon Balter, Director of the Division of Communicable Disease Control and Prevention for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said. 

RSV is very contagious, spreading through droplets in the air or through direct contact. The symptoms of RSV are very similar to cold and flu. A doctor’s diagnosis is required to confirm infection. 

RSV is mainly found in infants and elderly adults since both groups of people often have vulnerable immune systems and can be quite dangerous. However, for teenagers and adults, the virus often feels more like a bad cold, usually going away within a few days or weeks. 

“It can certainly make you sick if you’re in those categories,” Dr. Balter said. “If your immune system is working, then it shouldn’t make you very sick.”

Currently, no vaccine is available to treat RSV, so doctors can only treat your symptoms. 

How bad are Covid-19 and the Flu this year?

After coming back from Thanksgiving Break, many students and teachers found themselves having to stay home, unable to attend school. 

“On Thursday, I started having a cough and I was really tired and groggy,” senior Lorelei Rivera said. 

Rivera is one of many hit with the double-whammy of viral infection, contracting covid-19 and the flu over the past few weeks. Unlucky as it is, this circumstance is no surprise. Getting the flu and covid at the same time is something that most people should expect. 

“It felt a lot worse than a cold,” Rivera said. “I had a sore throat and it felt like it was burning my throat.”

Rivera doesn’t know how they contracted the viruses, only that they did not want to spread it to their family members. 

“I think for reasons we’re still trying to understand, the flu and covid are not independently riskier this year than any other year,” said Dr. Balter

As of December 2022, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department (LAPH) reported that 30.2% of specimens tested were positive for influenza type A. This season Influenza A has been detected more often than Influenza B. 

With so many students getting sick, the school nurse is having to stay on her toes. 

Students will come here, they will complain of sore throats, they will complain that they have had a fever for the past few days,” School Nurse Angelita Dizon said. 

Why everyone is getting sick again could be from a safety precaution we all had to endure. According to Dr. Balter, covid-19 lockdowns forced us all to hunker down at home, isolating ourselfs from others and causing our immune systems to slowly lose protections. Now, moving back into normal routines, everyone is more susceptible. 

“You get viruses on a regular basis and you have some immunity to them,” Dr. Balter said. “But this declines over time.”

What can you do to protect yourself and others?

Health professionals agree on several tips to prevent contracting a respiratory virus.Getting your covid-19 and flu vaccinations should be the number one priority. 

“The vaccine this year appears to be what we call a good match in that, the flu vaccine seems to be relatively good at preventing people from dying or ending up in the hospital,” Dr. Balter said. “But the flu vaccine, even at its best, is not nearly as good as the covid vaccine.” 

Vaccines are great ways to prevent illnesses. This year, both flu and covid vaccines can be administered at the same time. 

However, according to Nurse Dizon, LAUSD doesn’t require students to get either vaccine to attend school. 

Another way to protect yourself from airborne respiratory viruses Dr. Balter says is to follow basic sanitary rules.

“Hand-washing is always a good idea,” she said. “Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, unless you wash your hands. Also staying home when you’re sick. You should be testing, especially before you go to visit people who might be vulnerable.”

If you do happen to get sick, the best way to protect others is to stay home. 

“I stayed home the whole time in my room,” Rivera said. “I slept all day. I didn’t get to see anybody, didn’t hang out with my family.”

What are the concerns as a whole?

“One thing that concerns us about having all three viruses really strong this year at the same time is the impact that it could have on the hospital system,” Dr. Balter said. 

Dr. Balter worries that if hospitals become overwhelmed with one type of disease, normal operations would come to a stop. 

“You can’t get in to get your regular vaccines, treatments for other serious illnesses, autoimmune diseases, cancer, things like that,” she said.

As of Dec. 5, the LAPH reported 1,205 people hospitalized due to COVID, with 15.3% of emergency department visits being related to influenza-like illness and symptoms. 

With 5,106 new cases of COVID reported and 10% of all deaths in LA County being related to Influenza and COVID-19, the LAPH is recommending you wear a mask when in public. And rising cases could cause the mask mandate to come back into effect.

“I don’t think we’re going to have another shutdown,” said Dr. Balter. “Whether masks will be required I think is going to depend on the level of disease in the county and also the impact on the hospital.”

It is also important to consider those that may not have access to resources to help themself. Los Angeles is a larger county with a growing number of people experiencing homelessness. 

“People experiencing homelessness are really at high risk for all kinds of infections, including respiratory infections, but also other infections,” Dr. Balter said “So we worry about them a lot.” 

Her department has programs in place to provide necessary resources.

“Yes, we definitely work, especially with covid, to try to get them access to testing and vaccines and treatments,” she said. “There is definitely a lot of work that we do with the homeless agencies in L.A. County because we are generally concerned about persons experiencing homelessness.”

As the holiday season approaches, it is important to stay safe. Using the LAUSD-provided covid-19 testing kits and visiting a doctor if you start experiencing symptoms is one of the many ways to do so. 

If you do get sick, Dr. Balter advises to get vaccinated and boosted, if not already, and wear a mask to protect others, washing your hands regularly. 

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About the Contributor
Zachary Skolnick, Staff Writer
Zachary Skolnick is a News/Features writer for The Mirror. He is a senior in his first year of journalism. Outside of working on the publication, he enjoys spending time with friends, participating in school productions, and volunteering in his local community. He respects all political views but leans to the left on most topics. He values helping others in criminal and social justice and plans to attend a four-year university, majoring in criminal justice. 
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