Home Health Flu Season Could Collide with COVID-19 This Fall and Winter

Flu Season Could Collide with COVID-19 This Fall and Winter

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The final two flu seasons within the U.S. had been mercifully delicate—one of many few silver linings of the pandemic, as COVID-19 mitigation measures possible additionally prevented many circumstances of influenza.

However our luck might run out this yr. Australia, which frequently serves as an (imperfect) predictor of what’s to return for the U.S., has had its worst flu season in half a decade this yr, CNN stories. Flu season additionally began early in Australia this yr, one other doable harbinger of what’s to return within the Northern Hemisphere.

Dr. Alicia Fry, chief of the epidemiology and prevention department inside the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention’s (CDC) influenza division, cautions that “for those who’ve seen one flu season, you’ve seen one flu season”—which means the virus is unpredictable and guesses about it aren’t all the time correct. “Whether or not it will likely be a extreme season or a gentle season, or what to anticipate, or what viruses would possibly flow into—that we actually simply don’t know,” Fry says.

Nonetheless, there are some elements that might arrange the U.S. for a extra severe flu season this yr, says Dr. Brandon Webb, an infectious illness specialist at Utah’s Intermountain Medical Middle. Flu season severity varies fairly a bit from yr to yr, relying on elements together with immunity within the inhabitants and which influenza pressure is circulating. “People who get influenza the yr prior most likely carry over some incomplete or partial immunity,” Webb explains. Since few individuals acquired contaminated in the course of the previous two flu seasons, “we’re globally, and particularly within the U.S., file low group immunity ranges to influenza.”

The relief of COVID-19 mitigation measures like masking, social distancing, and distant working and education may additionally permit influenza to unfold because it did earlier than the pandemic, Fry says.

Learn Extra: You Can Still Get Long COVID If You’re Vaccinated and Boosted

The potential of a heavy flu season colliding with the nonetheless broadly circulating SARS-CoV-2 virus is regarding for the well being care system, Webb says. “If we’ve even a moderate-to-high influenza season that generates 300,000 or 400,000 hospitalizations and are additionally having to take care of a fall or winter COVID wave, that might put a pressure on hospital techniques across the nation,” he says.

The very best factor for people to do is get vaccinated sooner moderately than later, Fry says.

On Sept. 1, federal well being officers recommended that folks 12 and older get a brand new bivalent COVID-19 booster, which targets at present circulating Omicron variants. The up to date photographs can be found to adolescents, youngsters, and adults who’re at the very least two months out from their final COVID-19 vaccine dose (although some experts recommend waiting a bit longer). In the meantime, the CDC recommends getting a flu shot by the tip of October.

“If an individual desires to get each on the identical time, they’ll,” Fry says. In a Sept. 6 press briefing, White Home COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha concurred. “I actually consider because of this God gave us two arms—one for the flu shot and the opposite one for the COVID shot,” he mentioned.

Sometime, it could be even simpler to get twin safety in opposition to COVID-19 and the flu. Vaccine makers Moderna and Novavax are engaged on photographs that might goal each viruses in a single injection. It’s not clear if or when these mixture photographs could be accessible, however their growth presents a glimpse into what residing with each COVID-19 and influenza might appear to be transferring ahead.

Many unknowns stay about even this yr’s looming flu season. Webb recommends maintaining a tally of each COVID-19 and influenza charges and taking precautions accordingly. Individuals at increased threat for extreme respiratory illness, together with aged individuals and people with underlying circumstances, would possibly wish to think about carrying a masks in crowded settings.

At the very least one factor makes Webb optimistic about this yr’s flu season: Regardless of all of the discuss of pandemic fatigue, he thinks there’s been a cultural shift in the way in which individuals handle infectious illnesses.

“Individuals are, generally, way more conscious now in regards to the significance of an infection management,” Webb says. “I’d hope that we’ve a distinct tradition when it comes to recognizing that if you’re in poor health, it’s finest to remain residence.”

Extra Should-Learn Tales From TIME


Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com.



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