At any given time, in any given season, there are a number of potentially infectious viruses and diseases circulating through the population. While any singular illness could cause problems for certain individuals, especially those who are already experiencing compromised health, the real danger arrives when multiple infectious diseases peak at the same time.
This is what the healthcare industry is referring to when it uses the phrase “triple-demic.” And this year, the biggest concerns related to that confluence of infectious illnesses are RSV, influenza and the latest strain of COVID.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 36,000 Americans die from the flu alone every year. While RSV usually clears up in a couple weeks, serious cases can develop into lung infections and pneumonia.
While the potential arrival of a triple-demic is of concern for hospitals, for capacity-related issues, long-term care facilities also need to be wary because of the propensity for illnesses to easily spread through staff and from resident to resident. Nothing illustrated that danger more clearly than the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that at least 200,000 residents and staff died during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as the illness swept through long-term care facilities — even despite precautions that were taken. Now, even with the availability of COVID boosters and vaccines, the threat of a triple-demic from illnesses that also impact the upper respiratory system inspires a season of serious vigilance.
However, the fact that older patients are more susceptible to contracting and experiencing serious cases of RSV, COVID or influenza means long-term care facilities are dealing with additional factors beyond the propensity an illness has to spread.
The potential arrival of a triple-demic, in an era of healthcare staffing shortages, creates an even greater pinch on an already overburdened healthcare system — impacting care at both long-term care facilities and hospitals. And, it underscores the importance for long-term care facilities to develop and adopt a plan for prevention and a plan for crisis in addition to fostering a strong relationship with a long-term care pharmacy, like UnitedRx.
Some of those preventative measures include the reintroduction of mask requirements during peak seasons, for staff, residents and visitors, the promotion of boosters to protect against the most serious complications of infection, and resident and staff education on the subject.
Gaining buy-in from residents, staff and visitors on the potential severity and impacts of any singular outbreak, let alone an outbreak of more than one infectious illness, promotes adherence to special safety protocols and awareness regarding symptoms.
Headed into the holiday season, it’s particularly important for long-term care facilities to educate visitors about the dangers of spreading illness in a residential community. And, as more time is spent indoors, experts recommend that long-term care facilities check the airflow of their HVAC systems to ensure there are not any issues that could impact the health of those living there.
At UnitedRx, we deliver a hometown pharmacy experience to more than 400 clients across the country. Contact us to learn more about how our approach to treatment can meet the pharmacy needs of your long-term care facility.