COVID, RSV and influenza likely to impact health care system this year: CDC

This year’s respiratory virus season is set to be a repeat of last year’s.

September 14, 2023, 8:24 PM

This year’s respiratory virus season is set to be a repeat of last year’s, with COVID-19, RSV and influenza impacting the health care system at the same time, according to a modeling forecast released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday.

Based on their modeling, CDC scientists predict that there may be two possible scenarios this respiratory virus season (typically known as “cold and flu season”):

Scenario A:

Moderate flu and RSV activity

Moderate COVID activity

Staggered peaks

Scenario B:

Severe flu and RSV activity

Moderate COVID activity

Overlapping peak

Influenza and RSV were historically the two major viruses circulating during “cold and flu season.” However, due to the emergence of COVID, what would typically be an average respiratory season, may now lead to a significant strain on the health care system, according to the CDC.

Influenza activity was unusually low in the first years of the pandemic, according to data from the agency. Increases in RSV activity in parts of the Southeast may also indicate that the virus’ seasonal nature is returning, according to a CDC alert that went to health care providers earlier this month.

Fall and Winter are a time when respiratory viruses typically circulate more in the community, according to the CDC. Last year’s so-called “tripledemic” left some hospitals burdened by an influx of patients sick with COVID, RSV and flu.

The precise nature of the season’s severity or timing cannot be predicted, according to the agency. Some seasons may be more severe than others based on the strains of the viruses circulating and immunity to the viruses.

For the first time in U.S. history, vaccines for all three of the major respiratory viruses (COVID, RSV and flu) will be available to some this fall. Higher levels of vaccinations across the population will also help reduce the number of hospitalizations and risk of hospital strain, according to the CDC.