Ever since its arrival, COVID-19 has had an uncanny way of expanding our lexicon.

In March 2020, the word “pandemic” became a household name. Then in fall 2021, we were introduced to the term “twindemic,” which referred to the dual threat of a severe flu season combined with a winter surge of COVID-19 infections. Now, we’re learning about the “triple threat,” which describes the onslaught of three respiratory illnesses – RSV, the seasonal flu and COVID-19 – that are filling emergency rooms across the country.

These viruses present a threat to everyone, but infants and young children are currently at the greatest risk, write epidemiologists Rebecca S.B. Fischer, of Texas A&M University, and Annette Regan, from the University of San Francisco. They explain why the sheer number of respiratory infections – which are spreading much earlier than usual in the flu season – has health officials concerned that the situation could grow worse this winter. But they also point to the prevention strategies, including vaccines, that can help people keep themselves and their communities safe.

Also today:

If you value our work in providing you, your neighbors and the public with trustworthy health information, we hope you will support The Conversation. Thank you.

Amanda Mascarelli

Senior Health and Medicine Editor

Pediatric emergency rooms in some states are at or over capacity due to the surging number of respiratory infections. GOLFX/iStock via Getty Images Plus

COVID-19, RSV and the flu are straining health care systems - two epidemiologists explain what the ‘triple threat’ means for children

Rebecca S.B. Fischer, Texas A&M University; Annette Regan, University of San Francisco

Respiratory viruses are hitting young children and infants particularly hard this fall and winter season, and experts don’t yet know exactly why.

Science + Technology

Arts + Culture

Economy + Business

Politics + Society

Health + Medicine

Environment + Energy

The Conversation Quiz 🧠

  • Here’s the first question of this week’s edition:

    "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" celebrates the cultures of ____ in its depiction of the fictional kingdom Talokan.

    1. A. Easter Island
    2. B. Catalhoyuk
    3. C. Mesoamerica
    4. D. Antarctica

    Test your knowledge

From our international editions