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Infectious disease specialists raise caution over 'triple-demic'

COVID, flu, and RSV have Pennsylvania doctors cautiously optimistic heading into the holiday season, amid nationwide concerns.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — COVID-19 and flu cases are expected to rise this holiday season with an alarming number of RSV cases thrown into the mix.

Health experts say are anticipating a ‘triple-demic’ this year, after fighting off a ‘twindemic’ of both COVID-19 and a more aggressive flu in late 2021 into early 2022.

"It is concerning because hospitals are getting slammed all around the country," Penn State Health infectious diseases physician Dr. Mohammad Ali said.

Dr. Ali says holiday gatherings are likely to continue this trend.

"Every time after Thanksgiving and then after Christmas and New Year's, we tend to have higher people or higher patients in the hospital," Dr. Ali said.  "There’s just lots of respiratory illnesses coming in."

In a statement, WellSpan officials told FOX43 that the volume of patients at some urgent care locations is more than double or triple that of previous years.

Dr. John Goldman with UPMC says the health system is looking to bring on extra staff to accommodate the demand.

"We're getting as many travel nurses as we can," Goldman said. "Unfortunately one of the things that we found is that this isn't just happening in Pennsylvania. This is happening all over the country."

Still, Dr. Goldman says he's optimistic the situation in UPMC hospitals will be manageable.

"What we expect is for our hospitals to be very full," Goldman said. " [But] we do not expect our hospitals to be overwhelmed."

As is the case at UPMC, where most pediatric hospitals and ICU beds are full due to the drastic increase in RSV.

Dr. Ali says most people are unlikely to have a combination of the ‘triple-demic,' but can get different illnesses consecutively.

"The chances are not that high but you can get infections back to back, " Dr. Ali said. "You can get well from one infection, and [then get] another."

Both Ali and Goldman say the best way to prevent COVID-19 and the flu is by making sure you’re up to date on your annual shots or boosters.

They also say hand hygiene is best at preventing RSV, which is spread through commonly touched items, and most common in young children.

None of the major healthcare services could provide an exact number of how many COVID, RSV, and flu patients they are currently caring for. However, Dr. Goldman noted that the number of COVID-19 patients in UPMC hospitals is around 30 to 50, which is a number much lower than last winter.

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