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The winter’s “tripledemic” of respiratory viruses impacted nearly 40 percent of U.S. households, with someone there getting sick with the flu, COVID-19 or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), according to a new survey from KFF released Tuesday.
The flu and RSV hit much harder and earlier this year than in years past, as viruses kept at bay during the height of the pandemic began infecting people again following the resumption of every-day activities.
The overlap between influenza, RSV and a cold-weather surge in coronavirus infections led to concerns of a so-called “tripledemic.”
According to the survey, nearly half of respondents said the news of those three viruses spreading made them more likely to wear masks or take other precautions to avoid getting sick, such as wearing a mask in public or avoiding large gatherings.
The flu affected 27 percent of households over the past month or so, with 15 percent saying someone in their homes got sick with COVID-19. RSV infected someone in about 10 percent of homes, the survey found.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic turns 3 years old, 69 percent of the public said they are “not too” or “not at all” worried about getting seriously ill from the virus.
Those numbers are partially reflected in the people who reported receiving the bivalent COVID-19 booster shot.
As the federal government prepares to end its public health emergency declaration in May, just 28 percent of respondents said they received an updated COVID-19 bivalent vaccine booster shot, though that number is up slightly from 22 percent in December.
The increase largely reflects a shift in booster rates among Republicans, who went from 12 percent in December to 20 percent in January, though Democrats still are twice as likely to have gotten the updated booster, the survey found.
Studies have shown the bivalent booster has the most benefit for people at high risk, such as the immunocompromised and people aged 65 and older. Yet among those groups, only about half of adults at least 65 years old, and about a third of those who are immunocompromised said they have already received a bivalent booster dose.
Half of people who have not received the bivalent shot said they feel they have enough protection from their initial vaccination or a prior infection, and 44 percent said they don’t think they need the new booster.