CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Doctors across the state are bracing for a possible “tridemic” of three respiratory illnesses: COVID-19, the flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

A spokesperson from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WV DHHR) said in part, “It is predicted to be a more severe flu and respiratory season this year. With everyone staying home in 2020 and 2021, an immunity gap was created and we could see higher cases of flu and other seasonal respiratory conditions.”

Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state’s top health officer, said West Virginia’s children’s hospitals are already at about 75% capacity. She said the exact number of patients that have flu and RSV is unknown, but COVID-19 numbers are down.

Cindy Briggs-Biondi, a Charleston resident, has a one-year-old daughter with RSV currently at the Charleston Area Medical Center Women and Children’s Hospital. She said her entire family has RSV, but it was the worst for her youngest daughter.

“She’s had to be deep suctioned multiple times, she’s on high flow oxygen and we’ve been having to do this in the ER because there’s not enough room on pediatrics because it’s just full of sick kids,” she said.

After 36 hours in the hospital, Briggs-Biondi said she can’t believe how something that feels like a cold for her and her husband could put their three children in the hospital.

“These respiratory infections definitely scare me as a parent and you know very much make me wish that all people would be cautious especially during this time of year around kids even if you just feel like you have a cold.”

Amjad said COVID-19, the flu and RSV have similar symptoms, including fever, runny nose, decreased appetite and coughing. Those most at risk are children and older adults.

“If you’re a parent and you have a child who is showing early symptoms of one of those illnesses maybe they have a runny nose, maybe you think they’re sick, I wouldn’t send them to daycare or playdates. Try to keep your child who may be sick away from other kids,” Amjad said.

The state health department said the best way to help prevent illness is hand hygiene. That includes hand washing and coughing and sneezing into a tissue or elbow rather than your hands.

For those concerned they may have a respiratory illness, Amjad said you should contact your doctor sooner rather than later and make sure you’re up to date on your vaccines.