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Protect Your Family From “Viral Tripledemic” Winter: Influenza, RSV, COVID-19

The risk of respiratory illnesses increases with seasonal viruses on the rise as we approach the fall and winter. Acute respiratory illnesses can be caused by several different viruses, three commonly known ones being influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19. It is important to note that as we approach the fall, the public will face all three of these viruses, and experts have raised concerns about the threat of a “tripledemic.” It, therefore, seems prudent and timely to discuss basic steps that every family member can take to protect their loved ones (particularly the most vulnerable, such as the very young and persons of older age), which can be life-saving. 

More commonly known as the flu, this is a condition caused by the Influenza virus that mainly infects the nose, throat, bronchi, and occasionally lungs. Influenza is highly contagious and transmitted easily from person to person via droplets and small particles through coughing or sneezing. Influenza can spread rapidly in seasonal epidemics, and most infected people will recover within 1 to 2 weeks without medical treatment. However, certain groups, such as very young children, older persons (age 65 or over), and those with chronic medical comorbidities, can develop complications requiring hospitalization. Globally, seasonal influenza results in ~400,000 deaths each year, and concerningly, last year, the influenza season began unusually early, in October, and peaked quickly. It is still being determined whether this will be true again this year. 

RSV is another common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. Many people who hear the name RSV may think this is an infection that only affects babies, but it can also be life-threatening for older people. Infants 12 months and younger (especially premature infants), older adults, and those with chronic medical comorbidities are more likely to develop severe RSV. People with RSV tend to show symptoms within 4 to 6 days after getting infected, including runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing. RSV is responsible for ~160,000 deaths globally each year. The FDA has recently approved a new vaccine for RSV for adults 60 years of age and older. 

Recent reports that the decline in COVID-related hospitalizations has now stalled raises concerns. Mask mandates have returned to some geographical locations and institutions in the United States. This parallels the emergence of a new variant of COVID called BA.2.86, which is currently on the rise. BA.2.86 is a highly mutated COVID-19 variant with many mutations that could help the virus evade immune defenses built up from prior infections or vaccinations more than other variants. However, the impact of this variant and whether it would lead to more severe illness compared to different variants is currently unclear. With the seasonal increase in all three viruses – Influenza, RSV, and COVID-19, co-infection with more than one of these viruses simultaneously is certainly possible and could lead to more severe sickness and complications, particularly in more vulnerable groups of people. 

Preventative measures such as vaccinations, maintaining a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and good hygiene (regularly washing your hands, avoiding close contact with individuals who may be infected, covering your coughs and sneezes) are vital steps that every family member can take as we approach the fall and winter. All three viruses have similar modes of spread and can be transmitted via droplets and small particles through coughing and sneezing. These viruses can also be spread by touching infected surfaces such as doorknobs and tabletops. Therefore, cleaning high-touch surfaces and areas is critical and should be a priority of every household. The use of bleach or alcohol-based disinfectants is common. However, these products can be toxic. Therefore, newer cleaning agents, particularly those composed of pure Hypochlorous Acid (HOCl) by Hypristine, are becoming increasingly adopted globally and of significant public health interest. According to many published studies, HOCl has the advantage of being highly effective against all three viruses. HOCl can also be applied through misting and fogging for sanitizing large spaces, which is significantly advantageous. HOCl is also free of any harmful chemicals and is safe for use around young children. 

Ken Lim

Dr. Ken Lim, MD PhD MPhil FASN is an American Physician-Scientist, Nephrologist, Entrepreneur, and Public Figure. He holds Professorships in Medicine, and Anatomy, Cell Biology & Physiology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He was formerly Faculty Member at Harvard Medical School and Attending Physician at The Massachusetts General Hospital. He has served as a strategic advisor or consultant to leaders from diverse sectors, has held leadership offices on numerous corporate and non-profit boards, and appeared on various television and media programs. In 2022, he was named by the Indianapolis Business Journal to the Forty Under 40 list of most influential young leaders. He serves as a scientific consultant for Hypristine.