HARRISBURG, Pa. — As the holiday season approaches and the colder months arrive, three viruses have been on the rise nationally and in south central Pennsylvania.
Health officials say they’re seeing a “triple-demic” in cases of COVID-19, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), and flu.
John Goldman, infectious disease specialist at UPMC, said the rise in cases of flu and RSV is coming earlier in the season and the cases have been more severe. He also said that the rise in cases is likely due to many people masking and social distancing less.
“We’re seeing RSV come back, and we’re seeing it come back earlier and harder,” said Goldman. “Typically RSV doesn’t peak until December or January; we’re already seeing cases two or three times more than last year. We’re seeing our pediatric hospital beds fill up… we’re seeing our pediatric ICU beds fill up.”
COVID-19 cases have been on a steady incline, but Goldman said the severity of the infection has not climbed. Due to many in the population being vaccinated, hospitalization and deaths have not surged—only infections.
“We still have COVID, although COVID is currently much less than it was last year in the last two seasons sometime in late October or early November,” said Goldman.
RSV cases have been spiking across the area and health officials say children have been the most susceptible to the infection. After years of masking and social distancing, Goodman said children have not built up immunity to the virus, causing them to be hit the hardest when infected.
“Unfortunately, since we had so many people masking, social distancing, a lot of the other respiratory viruses—things like RSV, things like flu—were at much lower levels the last couple of years, and as a result, fewer people got exposed to them,” said Goldman.
Goldman added that health experts anticipate a steady incline of cases throughout the holiday season but ask the public to continue to practice healthy habits to prevent the spread.
Washing hands, staying home when sick and getting tested before heading over to holiday dinner is recommended for everyone.