Frequently Asked Questions about Tripledemic

The “tripledemic” is a term that some public health leaders and the news media are using to describe the current spread of three respiratory illnesses: COVID-19, flu (influenza), and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

During the fall and winter months, COVID-19, influenza (flu), and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases and hospitalizations spike in many parts of the country. Each virus can pose a serious health threat, especially for young children, older people, people with weakened immune systems, and people with underlying health conditions.

Most cases of COVID-19, flu, and RSV are mild, with millions of people getting moderately sick, but the number of people who are becoming severely ill is rising. The spread of these illnesses, alongside COVID-19, strains our health system and limits the capacity and resources of healthcare facilities.

“Tripledemic” does not have a scientific definition, like “epidemic” or “pandemic.” It is an informal term used to convey the significance of the current spread of COVID-19, flu, and RSV.

Updated December 15, 2023 

There are many health precautions that reduce your chances of getting or spreading flu, RSV, or COVID-19. Here are a few of the most important and effective measures:

  • Get vaccinated and stay up to date with vaccinations. Everyone age 6 months or older can get vaccinated against flu and receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine. RSV vaccines can also prevent severe RSV-related illness for older adults, young children, and pregnant people.
  • Wash and sanitize your hands. Washing and sanitizing your hands is a simple and important way to prevent the spread of viruses like RSV, flu, and COVID-19. Read more from the CDC about how and when to wash your hands.
  • Wear a mask when in crowded, poorly ventilated, and indoor areas and when around people who are immunocompromised. Wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask is an effective way to reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses, like flu, RSV, and COVID-19. These viruses spread via respiratory droplets that come from coughing, sneezing, or close contact. Wearing a high-quality mask prevents the spread of the virus to others and protects the mask-wearer. 
  • Physically distance yourself from other people when in crowded, poorly ventilated, and indoor areas and when around people who are immunocompromised. Respiratory viruses can travel and linger in the air, and this is a concern especially when you are indoors, in poorly ventilated spaces, and in close quarters with other people. If you can’t avoid being in crowded areas, try putting physical distance between yourself and others to help lower the risk of spreading or catching any illnesses.
  • Stay home and isolate from other people if you’re experiencing symptoms. If you’re feeling sick, you should stay home and remain separate from everyone else. You should also monitor your symptoms to determine the length of your at-home isolation. 
  • Bring fresh air into your home and other gathering spaces. When possible, open windows and doors or use fans to improve the fresh airflow in your living and gathering spaces. Alternatively, move activities outdoors, where airflow is best. If you use a central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, change your air filter every three months or as frequently as the instructions mention.
  • Test for a respiratory infection if you develop symptoms. While there isn’t an at-home test for RSV, at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 and flu tests are effective and reliable when used properly. If at-home tests are unavailable, contact your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms and determine which test(s) should be taken.
  • Contact your healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider if you have questions about testing and treatments, especially if you or your loved ones are at high risk for complications from flu, RSV, or COVID-19. There are effective treatments for these illnesses, but they need to be started early to be effective. Your healthcare provider can also help you manage symptoms, if sick.

Updated March 11, 2024 

Data show that high-quality, well-fitting masks are effective at reducing the transmission of COVID-19, and that they are likely effective at reducing the transmission of flu and RSV. Health experts continue to study the use of masks and which viruses can be prevented from spreading by wearing masks. 

Wearing a mask is highly recommended after becoming sick with a respiratory virus. After your symptoms resolve and you return to your normal activities, it is recommended that you wear a high-quality mask for 5 days, especially when indoors or around others at high risk of respiratory illness complications.

Regardless of hospitalizations or current mask guidance, anyone can choose to wear a mask as an additional precaution to protect themselves and their families from respiratory infections.

Updated March 5, 2024 

Misinformation Alerts about Tripledemic

Posts blame masks, COVID-19 mitigations for respiratory disease “tripledemic”

Several popular social media accounts are promoting the idea that mask mandates and other COVID-19 protections are responsible for the “tripledemic,” the current wave of flu, COVID-19, and RSV infections that are overwhelming U.S. hospitals. One post claims that wearing masks weakened children’s immune systems by preventing exposure to germs, making them more susceptible to

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