Preparing for the respiratory virus triple threat: What employees need to know

Fall brings cooler temperatures and changing leaves, but it also often brings a spike in respiratory illnesses. Learn how employers can help employees prepare.

Hospitalizations due to respiratory illnesses begin to spike in the fall and continue rising as we head into the winter months. The 3 biggest culprits: COVID-19, the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Together, they have become known as the "Tripledemic" in media outlets.

In fact, it's forecasted that total hospitalizations for this trio of respiratory illnesses could reach upwards of 1.15M this winter,1 which although still significant and of concern, is nowhere near what we saw during the course of the pandemic.

With the population at a heightened risk over the next few months, employers may see a corresponding uptick in unplanned absenteeism, lost productivity and costs as employees and their family members contract these viruses.

When an employee is out on sick leave, it not only affects that individual’s productivity but also of those who have to pick up the slack. In fact, it’s estimated that colleagues covering for an absent co-worker are nearly 30% less productive and less satisfied with their work experience.2 That decrease in productivity and employee satisfaction, along with the potential medical costs associated with those illnesses, can take its toll on an employer’s bottom line.

To help avoid these consequences, here are a few steps employers can consider taking to help their workforce stay healthier during the height of the respiratory illness season this fall and winter — and throughout the year.

Encourage employees and their family members to get their COVID-19, flu and RSV immunizations as recommended by their provider

For the first time — as the RSV vaccine is new in 2023 — vaccines for all 3 viruses are available at the same time. It’s recommended that individuals schedule these vaccinations in late October since the effectiveness decreases after 6 months.3 And with vaccines being administered from multiple sources, including doctor’s offices, retail pharmacies and clinics, employees now have more options to choose a location that best fits their preferences.

Educate employees about their coverage, as employees may not always know what preventive care is available for them

Employers that provide timely coverage updates to their workforce can help employees take better advantage of services. For instance, COVID-19, flu and RSV vaccines are typically covered under standard UnitedHealthcare health plans, and claims related to these conditions are often treated the same as other preventive vaccines. If unsure, employers can point employees to the UnitedHealthcare® app where they can find care and manage their health plan details.

Promote wellness year-round

Wellness programs, such as UnitedHealthcare Rewards (UHC Rewards), that incentivize employees for making good health and lifestyle decisions.

Employers who empower their employees to protect themselves against this triple threat may ultimately have a healthier and more productive workforce during the fall/winter season than those who don’t.

Current broker or employer group client?

Access uhceservices to check commissions, manage eligibility, request ID cards and more.