Top 3 Tips for Navigating the “Tripledemic”

January 12, 2023 at 11:17 a.m.


...by Dr. LuAnn Chen, Senior Medical Director, Community Health Plan of Washington

Washington’s ‘tripledemic’ is far from over. As COVID-19, flu and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) continue to surge, hospitals and health care providers are reaching capacity. In Washington State, flu deaths are at higher rates than are usually seen at this point in the season (40 people, including three children, as of December 10). High levels of respiratory illnesses could continue for a while.

As a physician with Community Health Plan of Washington, I urge you to consider the following tips to ward off illness this winter and spring:

  1. Wash Your Hands – Try to prevent getting sick by washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds. Hand washing can be one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. It is especially important to do so before/during/after preparing or eating food, after caring for someone who is sick and after blowing your nose/coughing/sneezing, and after using the restroom.

     
  2. Try Masking Up – Masks also help if you will be in close proximity to people in large public indoor spaces, traveling by airplane, bus or train or anywhere with large crowds where you are at higher risk of being exposed to viruses. While masks are not currently required in Washington, the CDC does recommend a mask when around other people indoors.

     
  3. Get Vaccinated – For flu prevention, current flu shots help you and your loved ones to stay healthy during flu season. Your annual flu shot is an essential part of staying healthy and protecting the people you care about. You can visit your local doctor’s office, pharmacy, or local clinic event. You can also get your flu shot at many drugstores and even grocery stores. Visit the Flu Vaccine Finder to find a flu vaccine location near you. In most cases, your flu shot is FREE $0!

For COVID-19 prevention, the CDC recommends that everyone six months and older should get a COVID-19 vaccine to help protect you from severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Even if you’ve had COVID-19, you should still get yourself or your child vaccinated as it provides added protection against the virus. People who already had COVID-19 and do not get vaccinated after their recovery are more likely to get COVID-19 again than those who get vaccinated after their recovery.

The CDC also recommends that people ages 6 months and older receive one updated booster if it has been at least two months since their last COVID-19 vaccine dose. People who have gotten more than one original booster are also recommended to get an updated booster.

Vaccines help to protect you, your family, and your community from becoming seriously ill. While there are no current vaccines for RSV, I recommend focusing on the above prevention strategies. However, there is a medication for babies at the highest risk of RSV. You should speak with your doctor about medication to prevent RSV if your baby meets the following criteria:


  • Born on or after October 15, 2020 and has chronic lung disease, or
  • Born on or after October 15, 2021 and has congenital heart disease, or
  • Born on or after October 15, 2021 and born prematurely

If you or a loved one do get sick, simple remedies like gargling, drinking lemon honey tea, and having soup can help you feel better.

If you have asthma or lung disease, please be sure to use your inhalers according to your provider’s instructions. If the symptoms are severe, or if they don’t improve in a week, you should call your doctor, your community health center, or your primary care provider. If you have trouble breathing or have chest pain, you should be seen in an emergency department.

Whether it is a cold, flu, RSV or COVID-19, stay home if you are sick!


Dr. LuAnn Chen is the senior medical director at Community Health Plan of Washington, a not-for-profit providing Apple Health (Medicaid), Medicare Advantage, and Individual & Family health plans. To learn more, visit chpw.org or connect on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or LinkedIn.
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