PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Health experts are calling this flu season a potential twindemic. First, rising cases of COVID fueled by the delta variant and now with winter on the horizon, influenza is likely on its way. And experts warn those flu season may be particularly serious.
Last winter, we battled COVID with masks, social isolation and lots of hand washing. Those measures had an added benefit of preventing many cases of flu last year. But this year…
“Much of our immunity to influenza comes from people who had it last year and a lot of that is gone,” Mark Roberts, MD, MPP, a director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, told Ivanhoe.
Health policy expert Dr. Mark Roberts and his colleagues ran two separate computer analyses. Both models predict a very serious flu season.
Dr. Roberts shared, “The likelihood is that there could be 20 percent or 30 percent more cases. The mathematical model that we use said as many as 400,000 extra hospitalizations.”
Experts are concerned flu could crush healthcare systems that are already straining to keep up with the demands of COVID. They say the best way to avoid a worst-case scenario is a flu vaccine.
“Even though the flu vaccine is not as effective as the COVID vaccine is, it is still effective at preventing serious disease, and it’s more effective than not,” Dr. Roberts noted.
According to one model, if 75 percent of Americans get vaccinated against the flu as compared to 50 percent in a typical year, many of those additional hospitalizations could be avoided
Dr. Roberts says for people who have been immunized against COVID, there is no concern that the flu shot would cause an interaction. In fact, experts say you can get both a COVID booster and a flu shot together. Dr. Roberts says the CDC is still working to determine which strain of the flu will be dominant this year, so they can’t yet predict how effective this year’s flu shot will be, still they say it is better than no flu shot at all. Flu season twindemic?
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.
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TOPIC: FLU SEASON: A TWINDEMIC ON THE WAY?
REPORT: MB #4958
COMPARING THE FLU AND COVID-19: Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. COVID-19 also seems to spread more easily than flu, but as more people continue to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the spread of the virus should slow down. Compared to flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people and can also take longer before people show symptoms. Those with COVID-19 can be contagious for longer; however there is more information available about COVID-19 vaccines and how well they work.
DIAGNOSING THE FLU VS COVID-19: COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, while the flu is caused by influenza A and B viruses. Both these viruses spread in similar ways and cause similar symptoms, which can make it hard to diagnose which condition you have based on symptoms alone. Testing can be done to see if you have COVID-19 or the flu, and you could have both diseases at the same time. COVID-19 symptoms generally appear two to 14 days after exposure to SARS-CoV-2 while flu symptoms usually appear about one to four days after exposure to an influenza virus. Also, COVID-19 can cause different complications than the flu, such as blood clots and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. While there is only one antiviral treatment for COVID-19, there are several antiviral drugs that can be used to treat the flu, and you can get an annual flu vaccine to help reduce your risk of the flu. The flu vaccine can also reduce the severity of the flu and the risk of serious complications and can be given as a shot or as a nasal spray.
NEW THERAPY: Last year, for the first time in recent history, the CDC reported almost no cases of flu, and of the 818,939 specimens tested for influenza from late September 2020 through late May 2021, only 0.2 percent came back positive, compared to 26 to 30 percent during a normal season. The CDC says having lower than normal numbers recorded last flu season is more than likely due to COVID-19 precautions such as wearing face masks, social distancing and people staying home from work and school. In addition, about 52 percent of American adults got the flu shot last year. With coronavirus cases spiking, the CDC is again recommending wearing face masks indoors, social distancing and avoiding crowds, even for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and if Americans continue to follow these recommendations and continue to take COVID-19 precautions into this flu season than that should also help suppress flu transmission.
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