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Hospitals juggle 'tripledemic' as hospitalization numbers rise

Hospitals juggle 'tripledemic' as hospitalization numbers rise
Hospitals juggle 'tripledemic' as hospitalization numbers rise 02:54

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The flu, RSV and COVID-19 are all colliding at hospitals across Illinois in a so-called "triple threat" or "tripledemic," and healthcare workers are scrambling to keep up as some hospitalization numbers reach what we haven't seen since last year. 

This week there was a spike in COVID-19 cases across Illinois like has not been seen since August. It's a number that is set to hit a nearly 10-month high by next week. 

Now officials are urging everyone to get up to date on COVID-19 boosters and flu shots ahead of the holidays to protect everyone's most vulnerable family members. 

If it seems like everyone is sick with something, it may not just be chalked up to that time of year. 

Cough medicine is flying off store shelves at stores around Chicago. The experts say respiratory illness is unseasonably early and the numbers are unseasonably high. 

Dr. Kat Wallace, an epidemiologist with the University of Illinois Chicago, also known as Epidemiologist Kat on TikTok, warned about the tripledemic weeks ago, where RSV and flu and COVID come to a head just in time for your big holiday gatherings. 

What might be mild for one perosn may mean a hospitalization for someone else. 

Hospital admissions for COVID-19 have jumped 26% this week alone. The Illinois Department of Public Health numbers show that's on pace to hit stats we have not seen since mid February when the state was recovering from its worst surge of the pandemic. 

"We started with COVID hospitalizations and then it went to RSV and now it's influenza, so these pediatric ICUs and ERs are just not getting a break," Wallace said. 

COVID cases are rising in most of the state heading into its third COVID winter with 63 out of 103 counties back to medium or high. 

But it's also flu that has the experts on high alert. In less than a month Illinois has gone from a low flu category to  very high post Thanksgiving. 

"Now that we are all back throwing ourselves back into the normal way of doing things, we don't have any mitigation in place. There's less population immunity to some of these things," Wallace said. 

And it is almost impossible to tell the difference between these three diseases when the symptoms are all the same. 

Wallace said both flu vaccinations and COVID boosters can deter sickness and help prevent hospitalizations. 

All eyes have been on pediatric units for months. The number of beds available has dipped as low as 2% across the state. It's just under 5% in Chicago. 

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