Times Chronicle & Public Spirit
‘Tripledemic’: RSV, flu cases on the rise alongside COVID
Children most at risk as winter approaches
NORRISTOWN >> Health professionals in Montgomery County are observing higher cases of illness ahead of the start of the winter season.
“CHOP is seeing an increased volume of viral infections across the board,” said Children’s Hospital of Pediatrics physician Dr. Allison Ballantine.
Ballantine and Dr. Richard Lorraine, medical director for the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, have identified RSV and flu as two main viruses, along with the ongoing presence of COVID-19.
In pediatric cases, Ballantine shared her perspective from the children’s health network, which has outpatient and emergency facilities in King of Prussia.
“Many of our children are experiencing what we’re calling an immunity debt, meaning they have not been exposed to viruses during the pandemic and so there’s been now two birth cohorts of especially young children and infants that are really getting hit hard,” she said. “We’re seeing an earlier than normal surge of RSV, which has also been much higher. … This particular virus is no more virulent, no more dangerous than it ever has been before.”
RSV, also known as respiratory syncytial virus, is categorized as a “common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, coldlike symptoms,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health care professionals are observing “an earlier surge of RSV cases,” Lorraine said, adding that peak time is about two-tothree months early.
“There’s just a lot of it, and we’re also seeing more flu already,” Ballantine said. “So this has resulted in an increasingly high number of patients who are seeking care of a lot of different settings, and we know there are long wait times across the board related to appointment availability.”
Flu is also following a similar path for older adults, as Lorraine added that “we’re seeing that significant peak,” about “twoto-three months ahead of where we normally are.”
There were 1,126 cases of flu reported in Montgomery County from Oct. 2 to Nov. 5, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
The presence of COVID-19, influenza and RSV is creating a “potential tripledemic” in the coming months, Lorraine said, noting “this is already stressing
the health care system.”
Ballantine suggested parents experiencing longer wait times in health care settings to bring drinks, snacks and toys to help keep children occupied.
She and Lorraine also encouraged people to continue best health practices such as hand washing, staying home if sick and getting a flu shot if eligible.
Lorraine agreed. Anyone ages 6 months or older is eligible to receive a flu shot, according to Lorraine, who said the inoculation can provide for several benefits including to prevent flu, reduce the severity of influenza illness and decrease the risk of hospitalization and ICU admission.
During last week’s meeting, Ballentine strived for greater exposure of the suburban health care facility.
“Let them know we are here, and how much we care, and how we want to support folks, and when you need to come to the emergency room, please by all means come, we are here,” she said.
Montgomery County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Dr. Val Arkoosh thanked Ballantine for her time.
“We really appreciate hearing from you today,” Arkoosh said. “We’re so grateful to have CHOP here in the county. The outpatients facilities are great, but now with the opening of the new hospital, it’s just added an incredible resource for people here in our county and some of the neighboring counties as well.”
Additional information and resources can be found on CHOP’s website at https://www.chop.edu/sickseason.