Feel sick?  How to know if you have COVID, RSV or the flu

Feel sick? How to know if you have COVID, RSV or the flu

It’s a triple threat.

After years of isolation and masking, influenza, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all hitting harder and earlier this cold season in a phenomenon that has been dubbed a “triple epidemic.”

Over the week of Thanksgiving, about 20,000 Americans were hospitalized with the flu, the most for that week in more than 10 years, according to a Washington Post analysis. Meanwhile, the COVID numbers are rising. New York State has recorded more than 141,000 cases in the past month, and over the weekend the Centers for Disease Control placed five New York counties – Bronx, Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Nassau and Suffolk – in the “orange zone”. signaling a high risk of COVID and a mask recommendation indoors. The lesser-known but fairly common RSV is at its worst since 2012, according to Dr. Juanita Mora of the American Lung Association.

Respiratory diseases increase with the approach of winter.
Respiratory diseases increase with the approach of winter.
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“Usually 100% of children will have had [RSV] at the age of two. But in the past two years, these kids who are now two to four years old have never seen RSV,” Mora told the Post. “So you have a whole new generation of little ones – as well as bigger ones too – who have never seen RSV.”

Dr. David Hirschwerk, medical director of North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and an infectious disease specialist for Northwell Health, told the Post that fewer precautions simply lead to more cases.

“[Last year and 2020] a lot of people were masking even more than this year,” he said. “And there just haven’t been that many people getting the flu shot.”

Doctors are seeing an upsurge in viral infections as cold weather approaches.
Doctors are seeing an upsurge in viral infections as cold weather approaches.
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Another culprit is cold weather. New research published Tuesday in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that even a temperature drop of 9 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to kill nearly half of the billions of cells that keep viruses and bacteria out in a person’s nostrils. nobody.

“You basically lost half your immunity just from that little drop in temperature,” rhinologist Dr. Benjamin Bleier, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told CNN.

Respiratory viruses came out strong this month.
Respiratory viruses came out strong this month.
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If you are not feeling well, getting tested is the best way to determine what illness you have. Single swab tests can be done for any of the three viruses in urgent care facilities or in a primary care physician’s office. There are also kits for the home.

Although it’s technically possible to contract multiple “tripledemic” viruses at once, Hirschwerk said it’s incredibly rare. Each of the three viruses tends to last five to seven days, so plan for several days of Netflix binge and tea drinking. For more details on each disease, read on.

A graph
Symptoms to look out for for each disease.


The common respiratory virus usually rears its aching head during the winter and it mutates from year to year. The flu can also lead to other respiratory illnesses such as bronchopneumonia and bronchitis.

It most often manifests with cold-like symptoms and postnasal drip. It can also cause gastrointestinal problems, high fever, mucous cough, sore throat, and fatigue.

Getting a flu shot is the optimal solution to fighting the virus, according to Hirschwerk. The prescription drug Tamiflu can be used as an add-on treatment to an albuterol inhaler.


Staying up to date on Covid vaccines is crucial this winter, doctors say.
Staying up to date on COVID vaccines is crucial this winter, doctors say.
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As if we all needed a reminder, COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that emerged in late 2019. It primarily affects the airways but can also impact the heart. Long-term impacts include myocarditis and brain clots.

The main symptoms are difficulty breathing, dry cough, sore throat, aches and pains, fatigue and loss of taste and smell.

As with the flu, keeping up to date with vaccines is crucial. The prescription drug Paxlovid can be used to treat Covid and some cases may warrant prescribed oral steroids. An albuterol inhaler can also be used to treat more serious cases that do not require hospitalization.

To prevent the spread, Mora also recommends doing a “mini quarantine” and retreating from crowded places a few days before seeing loved ones this holiday season.

respiratory syncytial virus

Single swab tests can be done for Covid, Influenza and RSV.
Single swab tests can be done for Covid, Influenza and RSV.
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In healthy adults, RSV may not be more bothersome than a mild cold, but it can be quite serious for very young children and the elderly. It can also cause pulmonary infectious bronchiolitis in addition to bronchopneumonia.

It first presents with cold-like symptoms, but becomes more severe in toddlers as it reaches their lungs. Warning signs include a dry cough, high fever, difficulty breathing, dehydration, runny nose, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Aside from Synagis – a special vaccine only for immunocompromised patients – there is currently no vaccine against RSV. Pfizer is awaiting FDA approval to give one to mothers in their third trimester of pregnancy, according to Mora.

Basic sanitary measures at home and at school are the best preventive measure.

Symptomatic treatment – such as taking Motrin or Tylenol and maintaining hydration – may be followed to recover from RSV and oral steroids may be prescribed if needed. Severe cases of wheezing and dry cough may also warrant a prescribed inhaler with albuterol.

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