Survey Finds Individuals Worried About Infection During Upcoming "Tripledemic"

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Fewer individuals have received the flu shot this season, compared to previous years.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a health survey that found over one-third of American adults fear that they or a loved one will become infected by the seasonal flu, COVID-19, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the following 3 months.

Sick Woman. Flu. Woman Caught Cold. Sneezing into Tissue - Image credit: Subbotina Anna | stock.adobe.com

Image credit: Subbotina Anna | stock.adobe.com

The press release noted that the survey was conducted in October of 2023 and included 1500 United States adults. The researchers noted that they have tracked the public’s knowledge on each illness for the past 2 and a half years.

Known as the “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses, health care facilities were flooded with the sicknesses during the 2022-2023 winter season. However, the survey found that United States adults were unaware of which virus was most likely to cause severe illness. The data showed that when asked which virus was most likely to cause severe illness, 22% of individuals said COVID-19, 13% said RSV, 7% said seasonal flu, 41% said all, and 16% were unaware.

With the approval of new RSV vaccines over the spring and summer of 2023, individuals have, however, gained more knowledge about the virus compared to earlier in the year. The press release noted that more people know symptoms of RSV, that it can survive on hard surfaces for many hours, and the possibility of being reinfected—but almost none of the respondents were aware of how commonly infants are infected with RSV.

Although individuals are more aware of RSV, 65% are not worried about themselves or someone in their family contracting the virus in the next 3 months, and 35% are worried. This number has increased slightly, from 32% of individuals who reported being worried in January of 2023.

In the survey focused on RSV vaccinations, the results showed that individuals were divided on receiving and recommending RSV preventatives, regardless of CDC suggestions. The data demonstrated that 55% of individuals said that they would tell their family member aged 60 years and older to speak with a health care professional about whether they should receive the vaccine or not. Further, 45% of individuals said they would not recommend women to receive the vaccine while pregnant, and 43% said they would. Lastly, 42% of individuals said they would recommend the monoclonal antibody injection for an infant, and 35% said they would not.

In the survey focused on the flu, knowledge of treatment and prevention methods varied. The data showed that 51% of individuals were aware that the flu shot provides protection for pregnant individuals and their babies from health problems following delivery. However, only 24% of individuals knew that if a pregnant individual is infected with the flu, there is a higher risk of having an early delivery. The press release noted that only 18% of individuals were aware that adults 65 years and older should receive an increased dose of the vaccine, compared to the dose younger adults receive.

Among those who have received the flu vaccine this year, 78% of individuals said that they receive the immunization every year and 31% said they received it this year because the CDC has recommended it.

However, the survey found that fewer individuals have received the flu vaccine this year compared to 2 years prior.

“Because getting a flu shot yearly not only helps to protect us from serious infection but also predicts our acceptance of other CDC-recommended vaccines, the drop in reported flu vaccination we see reflected in our panel is worrisome,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, PhD, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and director of the survey, in a press release.

Compared to RSV and the flu, the survey found that more adults in the United States are more likely to recommend older adults in their family to receive the fall COVID-19 booster, compared to children, preteens, or themselves.

Reference

Over a third of Americans worry about getting the flu, RSV, or COVID-19. EurekAlert!. News release. November 20, 2023. Accessed November 30, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1008536

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