Health officials urge vaccination as potential for ‘tri-demic’ looms

The warning comes as a spike in respiratory illnesses taxes hospitals.
Published: Oct. 25, 2022 at 5:30 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 25, 2022 at 6:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As winter approaches, Hawaii health officials are preparing to see more respiratory, flu, and COVID infections in a threat some call a “tri-demic.”

The warning comes as a spike in respiratory illnesses continues to tax hospitals nationwide. Hawaii cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have dropped over the last several days, but remain a concern.

“We already have RSV at an elevated level to what we would normally expect at this time of year and there are some indications that there will be an increased incidence of flu and it’s unknown what will happen with omicron,” said Healthcare Association of Hawaii President and CEO Hilton Raethel.

As of last week, the state’s positivity rate for RSV was up more than 23% ― triple the figure from September.

Amid the spike, staffing remains a challenge for medical facilities statewide.

“Our hospitals continue to be very very full,” Raethel said.

“At any point in time, we have between 400 and 600 personnel from the mainland in our hospitals across the state to help because we do not have staff in the state at this point to take care of all of our patients.”

That’s why there’s concern when looking ahead to what the winter may hold.

Flu, RSV, and COVID could all have an impact on Hawaii hospitals, officials said.

Experts add that now is the time to get up to date with immunizations.

The state Department of Health says only 15% of Hawaii residents have received a second COVID booster.

“Be concerned about it and get immunized, get the bivalent omicron immunization,” said epidemiologist Dr. Dewolfe Miller. “Otherwise, what’s developing now could have a serious impact on our healthcare infrastructure.”