Is B.C. in store for a ‘tripledemic’?

For the first time in more than two years, there are no public health restrictions in place and that has some worried about a possible “tripledemic” this fall, which appears to be underway in other parts of the country and world.

Pediatric hospitals in Ontario, for example, are experiencing crushing demand. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is reporting its busiest September on record, with an early surge in a common illness known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) to blame.

The hospital says the number of admissions is 10 times higher than the average before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Melissa Langevin, an emergency room physician at CHEO, says the surge may be a result of children not being able to build up regular immunity to the virus due to the lockdowns during the pandemic.

“What we are seeing now is a cohort of kids who have had a lot less exposure to viruses,” says Langevin.

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The virus usually circulates from November through March.

The so-called “tripledemic” is also causing problems across the U.S., and Australia deals with what’s believed to be its worst flu season in five years — something which experts believe could be a sign of what’s to come here.

Vancouver pharmacist David Wong believes this flu season is going to be bad.

He explains that the lack of public health mandates will allow viruses to spread much faster and hit people much harder.

“Now that the mask mandate is no longer in place, more people are going out again. For example, Halloween parties, Christmas is coming up — so, the more people get together, the more easy the transmission will be.”

Wong suggests continuing to follow all the safety tips you’ve been hearing for the last couple of years.

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“Handwashing for everyone and then avoid exposure — lessen contacts, if possible. Wear a mask if you can. And try not to share cups or use a disposable cup, that way you prevent transmission.”

He’s also really encouraging people to get the flu shot.

“It’ll prevent transmission to your children. For example, for pregnant women, at about 29 weeks [they] get the Tdap vaccine, this is to prevent pertussis coughing, so the fetus won’t get it but because the mother gets the vaccine, it will transfer the antibodies.”

This year, getting the flu shot in B.C. has changed — like with the COVID vaccine roll-out, you’re supposed to register with the province.

The way the new system works is you get emailed or texted a reminder that it’s time to book your shot(s) and along with it, you get a special code you have to use to secure an appointment. The problem is the code only works once, meaning, if you use it to book one shot and not the other, you have to get your hands on another code.

The Ministry of Health told CityNews earlier this month that the system is not working perfectly, but maintains most people should be able to book both shots at the same time. It also clarified that using the booking system for the flu shot is not mandatory but is recommended, and said walk-in appointments will continue to be available at pharmacies province-wide.

If you’re having any issues, no longer have a valid code, or need help, you can call the provincial call centre at 1-833-838-2323.

– With files from Lily Lam, Michael Ranger, and Shauna Hunt

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