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Free flu treatment clinic offered in Encinitas ahead of tripledemic

ENCINITAS, Calif. — It’s that time of year again. The dreaded flu season is upon us and health officials are urging community members to update their vaccinations.

While Californians have spent nearly three years enduring bouts of COVID-19 during the winter, residents of the state could be facing a stronger version of a familiar foe, the flu virus.

Flu activity is more than 10 times higher nationwide compared to last year’s flu season, and cases have more than doubled over the past week, according to the Oct. 24 Walgreens Flu Index report.

Find out what’s happening in Encinitaswith free, real-time updates from Patch.

What’s more, officials are warning of a potential “triple demia” if a spike in cases of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, coincides with the seasonal peak of flu and COVID-19.

In Encinitas, the local Walgreens at 1320 Encinitas Blvd. offers free flu shots, as well as vaccines for COVID-19, shingles, whooping cough and pneumonia. Walgreens pharmacies allow patients to sign up for up to four vaccines at once. Find a location near you using this search.

Find out what’s happening in Encinitaswith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Walgreens has more than 500 pharmacy locations throughout California, including these locations in San Diego County:

“As we return to pre-pandemic activities and spend more time indoors without a mask or social distancing, we are more susceptible to respiratory infections,” said Anita Patel, vice president of pharmacy services development at Walgreens.

Moreover, cases of RSV, a fairly common disease that can cause breathing difficulties in young children, are unusually high in California for this time of year, straining the capacity of local hospitals.

Prevention methods used to prevent COVID-19 have kept the rate of flu and RSV cases relatively low over the past two and a half years, experts say. As mask mandates and other restrictions fade, this winter season could bring back the flu and other respiratory viruses with a vengeance, according to multiple reports.

“It’s like RSV took a 2 year vacation, worked out twice a day, meditated, ate well, and now he’s back bragging,” tweeted Jessica Myers, MD, a pediatric hospitalist in Palo Alto.

Another warning came from Australia, which experienced a stunning winter peak in flu cases. The number of cases has reached a height not seen since at least 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Nationally, about 7,334 RSV tests were positive in the week ending Oct. 15, up from 6,518 the previous week and 5,210 the week before that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

READ MORE: RSV cases on the rise in California: 5 things to know about ‘triple demy’ threat

There are currently no vaccines that work to prevent RSV, but several pharmaceutical companies are working on developing vaccines.

Health officials said with RSV cases on the rise, it’s more important than ever to get both the COVID-19 and flu shots to free up hospital space.

“Mostly the problem is that there is low population immunity and children are regrouped, and that makes it easier for viruses like RSV to spread quickly,” said Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, told ABC News. “And due to the huge scale of the infection, when you have that larger denominator, you have a situation where some of those children will need hospital treatment. And that’s why our hospitals are thin, not only because of the bed capacity, but also for the critical filling of those beds.”

To prevent the spread of RSV, health professionals recommend the same precautions you take with the flu and other infectious diseases: wash your hands thoroughly and stay home if you’re sick.

Patch editor Rachel Barnes contributed to this report.

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