One of the few bright spots of the pandemic was that the last two flu seasons in the United States were thankfully mild, and it’s possible that COVID-19 mitigation measures also prevented many cases of influenza.
But this year, we might be out of luck. According to CNN, Australia, which frequently serves as a (imperfect) indicator of what to expect for the U.S., had its worst flu season in five years this year.
This year’s early start to flu season in Australia could be another sign of things to come in the Northern Hemisphere.
Dr. Alicia Fry, director of the American section of epidemiology and preventive If you’ve experienced one flu season, you’ve experienced one flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) influenza division.
This means that the virus is unpredictable and educated estimates about it aren’t always reliable. “We really just don’t know whether it will be a severe season or a moderate season, what to expect, or what diseases might circulate,” adds Fry.
However, several circumstances, according to Dr. Brandon Webb, an infectious disease expert at Utah’s Intermountain Medical Center, could lead to a more severe flu season in the United States this year.
Several variables, such as population immunity and the predominant influenza strain, influence how severe the flu season is each year.
According to Webb, people who had the flu the previous year likely had some insufficient or partial immunity this year.
The last two flu seasons saw relatively few cases, so “we’re looking at internationally, and especially in the U.S., record low community immunity levels to influenza,” according to the study.
According to Fry, the COVID-19 mitigation strategies of masking, social isolation, remote working, and schooling may be relaxed, allowing influenza to spread as it did prior to the pandemic.
According to Webb, the possibility of a severe flu season converging with the still widely prevalent SARS-CoV-2 virus is worrisome for the healthcare system.
“Hospital systems across the country might be put under duress if we have even a moderate-to-high influenza season that results in 300,000 or 400,000 hospitalizations and are simultaneously having to cope with a fall or winter COVID epidemic,” he says.
The best course of action for people is to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Federal health experts suggested on September 1 that those aged 12 and older receive a new bivalent COVID-19 booster, which combats the existing Omicron strains in circulation.
Adolescents, teenagers, and adults who have had their last dose of COVID-19 vaccination at least two months ago can get the revised injections (though some experts recommend waiting a bit longer). The CDC advises getting vaccinated against the flu by the end of October.
A person can obtain both simultaneously, according to Fry. Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, agreed during a news briefing on September 6. I firmly believe that this is the reason God gave us two arms—one for the COVID shot and the other for the flu shot.
Obtaining dual protection against COVID-19 and the flu may become much simpler in the future. Moderna and Novavax, two vaccine producers, are developing injections that would take on both viruses in a single administration.
The availability of these combo shots is unknown, but their development provides a glimpse into what it might be like to live with COVID-19 and influenza in the future.
Even the impending flu season this year still has many unanswered questions. Webb advises monitoring the COVID-19 and influenza rates and taking appropriate safeguards. Consider using a mask in busy areas if you are at risk for serious respiratory illness, such as elderly individuals or persons with underlying diseases.
Despite all the talk of pandemic weariness, Webb is optimistic about this year’s flu season because he believes there has been a cultural change in how people approach infectious diseases.
According to Webb, “people are generally considerably more informed now about the necessity of infection control.” “I would hope that we have a different culture in terms of understanding that it’s preferable to stay at home when you’re sick.”