'Tripledemic' Cases Decline in U.S. Hospitals

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Jan. 23, 2022 -- A "tripledemic" surge of COVID, flu, and RSV cases peaked before the New Year and is now in decline, according to data released by the CDC. 

The three illnesses peaked for the week ending Dec. 3, with about 236,000 cases nationwide, according to the National Syndromic Surveillance Program, a collaboration among the CDC and health care partners on the federal, state, local, and private levels. 

For the week ending Jan. 14, about 72,000 combined cases were recorded. Emergency room visits for each of the conditions went down before the end of 2022, the CDC chart shows.

“We are seeing the normal busy, but not the very busy that I thought we would see,” Juan Salazar, MD, physician in chief at Connecticut Children’s in Hartford, toldThe Washington Post. “I’m just so pleased we are now able to be back to normal staffing. Busy staffing, but not anything near to what we saw in the fall.”

Health care authorities warned last year that the tripledemic was coming, saying the addition of RSV cases to the winter mix of flu and COVID could overload hospitals. 

But experts warn that people should not let down their guard. Flu season often has two peaks, and the highly transmissible XBB.1.5 COVID subvariant, which now dominates the Northeast, could spread to other sections of the country, the Post reported.

“Things don’t look as bad as they did a few weeks or a few months ago, but we are still very much in the throes of winter,” Barbara Mahon, a CDC official who oversees the response to coronavirus and other respiratory viruses, told the newspaper. 

This winter has been much lighter with COVID cases than previous winters. COVID-related deaths are averaging about 670 per day compared to the mid-January 2021 average of 3,300, according to the Post. 

For the week ending Jan. 14, seven jurisdictions reported high or very high flu activity, down from 21 jurisdictions the week before, the CDC tweeted. ER visits for RSV cases peaked the week of Nov. 12.