Tackling the Tripledemic: RSV

A series looking at how rapid testing can help quickly identify respiratory viruses, including RSV.

Diagnostics Testing|Dec.05, 2022

At Abbott, we have one thing in mind: keeping your family safe. This is especially true during this time of year, when illnesses such as flu, RSV and COVID-19 tend to spread more widely.

As flu, RSV and COVID-19 coincide this virus season, more people around you may be getting sick. What's been coined a "tripledemic" has had people on edge about getting sick — and with what. The good news is that people can take important precautions to keep those you love safe as we see more respiratory cases than we’ve seen in the past. And part of that includes testing.

RSV Cases Rising

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common seasonal virus that has been often overlooked even though it affects about 97% of children by the age of two. This holiday season, RSV is making a comeback after infection rates dropped the past few years, and experts believe that was related to social distancing and mask-wearing precautions taken during the pandemic. As a result, those who would typically have strong immunity from regular exposure are now more at-risk for catching RSV this season.

We recently spoke with Dr. Richa Bedi, who works at the AMITA's St. Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center Health, to get her perspective. Bedi tracks cases from the AMITA Health labs in Chicago and has seen firsthand the impacts of the virus.

For most people, RSV manifests as nothing more than a common cold and symptoms can seem extremely mild or like a mild flu. But for babies and the elderly, RSV can pose a risk.

"If you test positive, there's no reason to panic," Bedi said. "Drink lots of fluids and get rest. Cover your mouth and nose. The youngest and the oldest among us should get checked out, but otherwise there’s no need to worry so much."

In Chicago, where AMITA Health is based, RSV tests in mid-October were climbing, with nearly 3,000 people testing positive, with a high 15% positive rate among those tested, who are usually in at-risk groups. One person per every 100,000 people nationwide is now hospitalized with RSV symptoms, which is a significant increase from the non-existent case count earlier in the year.

Importance of testing

Abbott offers several diagnostic tools to test for RSV, with some tests even able to assess for multiple sicknesses with one swab.

Our ID NOW RSV test and our BinaxNOW RSV Card used by healthcare professionals can detect the RSV virus. Our Alinity m Resp-4-Plex — an all-in-one molecular test that can complement quick rapid testing — is able to test for RSV along with COVID-19, Flu A and Flu B.

At AMITA Health, Bedi and her team on the frontlines are using Abbott’s ID NOW machines to test so they can give fast and reliable results to the people who need them most.

Testing allows for the right course of action to be followed:

  • If it's RSV, you can monitor symptoms closely and know that the disease will run its course. Hospitals and other locations can keep you away from the most vulnerable populations, such as premature babies in the NICU.
  • If it's flu, you may be eligible for an antiviral that can help lessen the length and severity of your sickness.
  • If it's COVID-19, you can quickly quarantine and may be eligible for an antiviral that can help to stop the need for hospitalization among certain populations.

RSV for most people is a minor inconvenience. But for some, it can be life-threatening. Remember to keep your family and friends safe by testing and taking healthy precautions.

If infected, easy ways to ensure the safety of family and friends includes covering coughs and sneezes and generally avoiding contact with healthy people. Stay at home if you're able to when sick — especially if you are in contact with more vulnerable groups such as daycares — and wash your hands often.