More than a third of American adults worry that they or someone in their family will get the seasonal flu, COVID-19, or RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) in the next three months, according to a new health survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC).
Those three viral illnesses made up the “tripledemic” of respiratory illnesses that overwhelmed some health care facilities last winter. Although RSV typically peaks later in the year, this month hospitals in parts of Texas are already seeing emergency rooms filled with children with RSV.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that often causes mild, cold-like symptoms but can be serious and require hospitalization among infants and older adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There’s no consensus among U.S. adults on which virus is more likely to cause severe illness: 22% say COVID-19, 13% say RSV, 7% say seasonal flu, and 41% say they are equally likely to cause severe illness. Sixteen percent are not sure.
The Annenberg Science and Public Health Knowledge (ASAPH) survey, which was conducted Oct. 5-12, 2023, with a panel of more than 1,500 U.S. adults, finds that Americans generally are more knowledgeable about RSV today than earlier this year. Over the spring and summer, health authorities approved new vaccines against RSV specifically for adults age 60 and older and for pregnant people as a way to protect their newborns.
The highlights of the survey show that 35% of people surveyed worry that they or someone in their family will get RSV in the next three months, up from 32% in January 2023. About two-thirds are not worried. Additionally, 35% are worried that they or someone in their family will get COVID-19 in the next three months, up from 21% in August 2023 but similar to last winter. Regarding influenza, 39% are worried that they or someone in their family will contract the seasonal flu in the next three months, statistically unchanged from January 2023.
Nearly one in three people (31%) say they personally know someone who believes they are suffering long-term health complications as a result of getting infected with COVID-19; one in six (17%) say they personally know someone who believes they are suffering long-term health complications as a result of taking a COVID-19 vaccine.
At the time the survey was fielded (Oct. 5-12, 2023), 21% said they had received the flu shot this season, compared with 26% in mid-October 2022 and 38% in the second week of November 2021.
“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,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and director of the survey.
Read more at Annenberg Public Policy Center.