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Chicago health officials warn of 'tripledemic' of COVID-19, flu and RSV this winter

Chicago health officials warn of 'tripledemic' of COVID-19, flu and RSV this winter
Chicago health officials warn of 'tripledemic' of COVID-19, flu and RSV this winter 02:52

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago health officials are urging people to get their COVID-19 vaccine boosters as soon as possible to help avoid a full blown winter surge. And now, the city's top doctor says she is concerned about a "tripledemic." 

It is a combination of COVID, the flu and RSV. 

People in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood are paying attention. 

Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, predicts Chicago will move back into the medium COVID-19 risk level in the coming weeks. Saturday, residents weren't taking any chances with the winter season approaching.

Dannie and Camille Lee want to make sure they're prepared for this winter.  

"We definitely want to get the shots," said Dannie. "Get those boosters because we know too many people that didn't make it through the pandemic."

"If you get both of them, you may not make it because your body can only withstand and can fight off so much. And it cannot fight off COVID and the flu," said Camille. 

On Saturday, several people walked into Kennedy King College to get their booster or flu shot, sponsored by the Chicago Department of Public Health. Arwady said she's looking past Halloween to the respiratory virus season, which is when she expects to see another surge in COVID-19.

"So last week 1% was high. Eighteen percent was medium. This week, 2% are high, 22% are medium," she said. "Just a slight uptick, but my concern is we're probably continuing to see upticks like this as we move inside, he weather gets cold, and we hit our respiratory season."

COVID isn't the only concern. Arwady said Chicago is already seeing higher acute respiratory hospitalizations among children and higher rates of RSV than it has in the last two years.

"When I see how much RSV is already hitting us, and I know that every year we have a flu and a covid season, my crystal ball says, 'Get your kids vaccinated please,'" she said. 

Aaron Trujillo wanted to get his 1.5-year-old son his second dose of the vaccine.

"It's really important to keep healthy and be responsible for everyone," he said. 

The University of Illinois has launched a test kit that eliminates the confusion over COVID, flu and RSV, which have similar symptoms. The test will help customers know within 24 hours if they have one of these three viruses.

Arwady recommends getting the vaccine and booster shot now while it's still free through federal funding because, she says, by the first quarter of next year, it will come with a cost. 

The Chicago Department of Public Health says booster shots are keeping hospitalizations down. Health experts say people who are unvaccinated are more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who have gotten all of their shots. 

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