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Triple threat: The winter viruses you can get at the same time

Source: The New Daily

You might have heard that people are being hit with a “triple whammy” of respiratory diseases.

This suggests that some members of the community are being laid out with two or even three rotten viruses at the same time.

These are Covid-19, seasonal influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Is it really possible to get all three at once? Yes it is, although that is rare.

However, a combination of two of these illnesses is a little more common. This is called a co-infection.

The other possibility: Suffering with one of these, let’s say Covid-19, and then, when it runs its course, you get sick with the flu or RSV.

Getting one virus after another is known as a sequential infection.

In the northern winter, co-infections and sequential infections were reportedly putting hospitals under pressure.

We’re about to go into winter in Australia and already doctors and hospitals are worried because too many people aren’t vaccinated for flu or boosted for Covid.

For most people, the “triple whammy” means there’s so much sickness about, it’s likely you’ll get sick with at least one of these viruses.

But which one?

In the first three months of 2024, there were three times as many confirmed Covid-19 cases as influenza cases.

This means that there’s a lot more of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (which causes Covid-19) circulating in the community than influenza.

Worse, the death rate associated with Covid-19 was about four times as high as for influenza.

This may even out a little over winter, but Covid-19 will likely remain the biggest threat of you becoming seriously ill.

On the other hand, RSV is an extremely common respiratory disease among small children. It’s highly infectious, and yet not top of mind.

It’s not as lethal as flu or Covid, but it can get very nasty for the very young, old and those in between with lung issues.

What to do?

If you’re feeling unwell, the first thing to do is determine what you’re sick with.

There are now rapid antigen tests (RAT tests) in pharmacies that can distinguish between flu and Covid with one swab.

Combined RAT tests for coronavirus, and flu A and B viruses, are available at pharmacies.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or boosted for both flu and Covid-19, get it done.

If you’re not unwell, become more vigilant with your personal hygiene.

Wash your hands often and thoroughly.

Isolate sick family members.

And, think about wearing a mask in crowded places, such as supermarkets. It’s better looking like a dork than becoming seriously unwell.

RSV symptoms

According to the Immunisation Coalition: RSV starts off with mild cold-like symptoms, which may include slight fever, sore throat, headache, and a runny and stuffy nose.

Bronchiolitis and pneumonia often follow in young children.

Bronchiolitis is inflammation and congestion of the small airways of the lungs known as the bronchioles. Symptoms may include coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing and problems eating or drinking.

People with RSV are generally contagious for three to eight days.

Some infants and people with impaired immune systems may be contagious up to four weeks after symptoms subside.

Most people recover from the infection within 10 days.

Flu vaccine reminder

Source: Vic Health

Symptoms of the flu

According to the Better Health government advice channel, the most common symptoms of the flu are:

  • Sudden appearance of a high fever (38 degrees Celsius or more)
    a dry cough
  • Body aches (especially in the head, lower back and legs)
  • Feeling extremely weak and tired (and not wanting to get out of bed).

Other symptoms can be:

  • Chills
  • Aching behind the eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose.

See here for more advice.

Symptoms of Covid-19

According to Better Health, symptoms may appear any time between two and 14 days after being exposed to the virus.

The symptoms to look for are:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever, chills and/or sweats.

You might think it’s the flu. Get a combined RAT test to be sure.

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