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State leaders urge residents to get vaccinated, be vigilant as RSV cases rise

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  • Staff Report 

State officials are concerned about the trio of issues facing hospitals this winter.

Over the last week, the word ‘tripledemic’ started floating around social media. Think of it as when influenza, COVID, and other respiratory illnesses all converge – creating bed shortages.

It’s not necessarily an immediate problem, but one that healthcare managers are thinking about now.

On Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced steps the state Department of Health would take to raise awareness and protected New Yorkers against respiratory virus infections.

Health officials are urging the public to take steps geared toward stopping the spread of infectious disease as cases of seasonal influenza, COVID-19 and RSV rise.

“We are not backing down in our fight against deadly respiratory illnesses — we have been preparing for the winter, and we are ready,” Governor Hochul said. “New York State is taking action to provide guidance to hospitals and local health departments to ensure that we keep New Yorkers safe and healthy. Our best shot at protecting ourselves and fellow New Yorkers from respiratory illnesses continues to be getting vaccinated, staying up to date on boosters, and practicing good hygiene.”

Earlier this fall, the State Department of Health (DOH) issued a Health Advisory Notice regarding respiratory illnesses to hospitals, local health departments, laboratories, emergency rooms, and providers in family medicine, primary care, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, infectious disease, neurology, and infection control practitioners. While not specific to any one virus, the notice highlighted increased hospitalizations from these types of illnesses and provides federal resources.

The best defense against respiratory viruses is to receive the seasonal flu and COVID vaccines, stay up to date on COVID-19 boosters (including the recently authorized COVID-19 bivalent booster for those eligible), practice social distancing, wear masks in crowded settings, and use proper hygiene, including frequent hand washing.

DOH said it’s monitoring regional hospital capacity and engaging hospital and health care systems that may be seeing larger than normal patient volumes in their emergency departments and inpatient units.

Respiratory syncytial virus is a seasonal infection that poses a risk to infants under 6 months of age and immune-compromised individuals, with symptoms similar to the common cold, ranging from a persistent cough and wheezing to fever. While this common virus typically spreads during the fall and winter months, DOH officials are seeing RSV cases in New York earlier this year.