Doctor: It’s possible to get flu, RSV, and COVID at same time

Dec 6, 2022, 4:08 PM | Updated: 6:28 pm


The emergency entrance to a hospital is seen in heavy snow on February 13, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

As if it were not bad enough that the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID are all causing a surge in illness right now, it turns out that it is possible to get all three of these sicknesses at once.

Experts say the winter flu season started early this year, even compared to pre-pandemic years. This is occurring alongside a spike in RSV — especially among children — and the ongoing COVID cases.

“We are certainly starting to see patients getting one or all three at the same time,” said Dr. Edward Leonard, an infectious disease specialist at Overlake Medical Center.

If you are one of the unlucky people to get the triple threat of viruses, Leonard said in general, as with the pandemic, how severe your symptoms are will largely depend on how healthy you were.

Flu season wreaking havoc on kids in Washington state

“Some people just may feel much more rundown than normal with one [virus] or the other. It just depends on what that person’s health is at that moment and their otherwise comorbid conditions,” Leonard said, adding, “Most patients who are otherwise healthy and have no major comorbid conditions would probably do quite well overall. They may have, again, more symptoms and more fatigue, but I think they would be able to handle these infections quite well.”

Besides those with compromised immune systems, the elderly and children are also more likely to have a tougher time if they catch more than one virus at a time.

The new bivalent COVID booster and this year’s flu shot offer excellent protection against serious symptoms, but there is no vaccine for RSV.

Leonard said it is no surprise that we are seeing a surge in respiratory viruses this season. Our bodies are, in a sense, in ‘virus debt,’ according to Leonard, and our immune systems are just now catching up with all the typical seasonal viruses we would have caught over the past two winters, had we not been masking and isolating.

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“For the past two-and-a-half to three years, we’ve been sequestered, wearing a mask a lot more in a lot more public places, so people just weren’t being exposed to these [sicknesses],” Leonard said. “Now that those restrictions are lifting, we’re seeing what would have happened in any other flu season, if there was no pandemic.”

While there is some sense in getting our bodies used to these seasonal viruses again, Leonard says it is still the best idea to mask up and stay home as much as possible — especially with the holidays approaching and many people planning to get together with elderly loved ones.

“Certainly, the concept of one developing their own immunity to create a relative herd immunity makes some sense,” he said. “That being said, I think it’s still reasonable to continue with the masks, especially if one is concerned and has comorbidities.”

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