Arizona facing a “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses as weather cools

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Nov. 10, 2022 at 7:35 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s a very bad year, at least so far, for respiratory diseases.

It’s still very early, but the fall respiratory disease season is already in full swing.

Let’s take a look at the numbers so far for what might be called a “tripledemic”.

For RSV, a respiratory disease which mainly affects the very young and very old, the trend line looks like a rocket ship on liftoff. Straight up.

A virus where there’s fewer than three hundred cases a year for the past five years, has seen a spike ten times higher this year so far and half in the past week alone.

The flu virus has been spiking early, even having some cases over the summer. More than half the flu cases have been reported just in the past week.

And covid-19, the state data dashboard shows more than 7,600 cases last week, about a two thousand increase from just the week before.

So, what gives?

“For the past two or three years we had a lot of mitigation efforts that were taking place,” said Eugene Livar, the Assistant Director for Health Preparedness at the Arizona Department of Health Services. “We had social distancing, we had masking, we had other items that came into play with covid 19.”

But so much of that has now been forgotten and is in most folk’s rear view mirror.

“And now that we’re getting back to normal and people may not be doing those items as much, we are seeing a rebound with those respiratory infections season,” Livar said.

For a lot of folks who are young and healthy, RSV may not be severe, more of a nuisance than anything, but for some, especially those who have compromised immune systems or young children, it’s a pretty big deal.

“We see people having a difficult time breathing, grunting, nasal flaring and those are often signs its getting to a severe state and you want to seek medical care and attention,” Livar said. “There is a possibility that you need to go to the hospital or get hospital care.”

For the flu spike, there is a vaccine and doctors recommend it. It may not prevent getting the flu, especially in a season where the cases start early, but it will make the outcome less severe.

Same with COVID, where cases and hospitalizations are ticking up.

What to do?

“Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, make sure you stay away from others who are sick, stay at home when you are ill so that you don’t transmit it to others and also whether it be COVID-19 or the flu, get vaccinated,” he said.

As we enter the holiday season, travel and family gatherings make prevention all that more important.