BU Will Hold Flu and COVID Clinics Next Week, While Bracing for RSV
Respiratory syncytial virus has gotten an early, widespread start across the country, raising fears of a “tripledemic”
While holding upcoming flu clinics and one for the COVID-19 bivalent booster, the University is bracing for a winter “tripledemic” involving a third malady: RSV—respiratory syncytial virus—which has spiked early this year around the country.
BU will run daily flu clinics Monday, November 14, to Thursday, November 18, from 9 am to 3 pm in the FitRec first-floor gym (enter via the Buick Street entrance). Students can schedule an appointment through the Student Health Services (SHS) Patient Connect site, faculty and staff through their Occupational Health Center Connect Portal.
Even the needle-averse might consider the shot this year, as flu season began a month earlier than normal, and current flu hospitalizations and positive tests portend what could be the worst season in 13 years. About 880,000 flu cases and 360 deaths have been reported already.
In addition, the state will give Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 booster shots at FitRec’s first-floor gym on Tuesday, November 15, from 9 am to 3 pm. Appointments are required—no walk-ins will be accepted—and slots are filling already. Register here.
RSV, a winter virus, usually mimics a mild cold, but can be serious in young children, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune system or chronic heart or lung problems. Infants born during the pandemic avoided exposure during that time because of masking, social distancing, and childcare facility closures, leaving them vulnerable now to an outbreak that has kept hospitals busy ahead of the virus’ standard late-December-to-February season.
Massachusetts is among the states where filled pediatric wards have had to occasionally send some kids with RSV to out-of-state hospitals for care.
“We have only seen a handful of RSV cases in students this year,” says Judy Platt, the University’s chief health officer and executive director of Student Health Services. SHS provides testing for both RSV and flu, but the Occupational Health Center does not, she says. “The virus is easily spread in certain settings, like schools and daycares, and children in these age groups often struggle with this virus more than healthy adults.
“I’m worried about more than a ‘tripledemic,’” Platt adds. “For a variety of reasons, and with less mask use, we should be prepared to see increases in flu and RSV, but also in the viruses that cause the common cold, like rhinovirus. While the common cold viruses are not as lethal as the flu and COVID-19, they make for a miserable one to two weeks.”
She says preventing flu and RSV, for yourself and others, requires the same measures: wash your hands. Mask when appropriate. Stay home if you’re sick.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that RSV hospitalizes 177,000 older Americans annually, killing 14,000 of those. And young children, with still-developing immune systems and small airways, especially may have trouble breathing if they get the virus, the New York Times reports, advising, “If an infant or toddler is breathing faster than usual, if you notice more of their ribs or belly moving as they breathe or if their nostrils are flaring, those are all signs that you should take them to see a doctor.”
Pfizer has announced that it will seek regulatory approval for an RSV vaccine that when given to pregnant women in trials, has protected newborns from severe symptoms for six months.