Flu predictions after the pandemic
Influenza season is fast approaching, and this year’s scientific predictions do not show an easy winter.
With masks off and the majority out of quarantine, flu is predicted to spread fast.
“Many have stopped masking,” Dr. Abinash Virk, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic, said in an article for Mayo Clinic News Network. “For the large part, we will see the reemergence of influenza in the winter. In comparison, in the 2020 winter, when we were all masking and social distancing, there was literally no influenza. But now that has all changed.”
The Mayo Clinic also warns about the similarities between covid and influenza, both being respiratory illnesses. These similarities mean it will be difficult to determine what illness is present without testing, meaning cases of both illnesses could go up tremendously over the flu season.
The two illnesses potentially running rampant also means that an individual can get sick with both at the same time, which may be dangerous for vulnerable populations. The CDC recommends people get vaccinated by the end of October.
According to the North Dakota Department of Health, the flu vaccine during the 2019-2020 season prevented 7.5 million influenza illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, 105,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 6,300 influenza-associated deaths.
With the pandemic making the last few flu seasons almost non-existent, there have been concerns for immunity after the last few seasons were spent masked.
“With these few mild flu seasons back-to-back, I think immunity in the population is probably lower than what it is entering an average flu season,” said Dr. Jennifer Nayak, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in an interview with CNN.
This immunity risk means organizations like the CDC and Department of Health will be pushing for more vaccines than before. The risk of Covid-19 and Influenza circulating at high rates among unvaccinated populations could also create challenges for hospitals, who have already been struggling with the spread of one respiratory illness alone.
Many experts are also concerned with how another vaccine campaign will go following the height of the pandemic.
“As we have learned from the last 18 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the decisions we make as individuals and communities can have a huge impact on the fate of an outbreak. We can and should do our part to prevent a catastrophic flu season, by getting vaccinated early this fall and taking sensible precautions if and when the virus starts spreading widely,” Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas Covid-19 Modeling Consortium, told CNBC.
Although the season is predicted to be bad, some experts are hopeful that some of the pandemic habits will carry over into the upcoming flu season. With many people continuing to work from home, masking while sick and less people going out or to work when sick, the hope is the spread will be slow.
Many people have become used to staying home when sick, not to mention even more people are wary of those around them who exhibit symptoms of illness.
The flu season is approaching and with the current predictions looming, along with the continued spread of Covid-19, many experts urge citizens to take necessary precautions.
- “About Flu.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Nov. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/index.html.
- Ellyatt, Holly. “Health Experts Are Anxious to Prevent a ‘Catastrophic’ Winter Flu Season.” CNBC, CNBC, 7 July 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/07/winter-flu-season-could-be-big-experts-warn.html.
- Goodman, Brenda. “Australia’s Tough Flu Season Could Spell Trouble for the US This Winter, Especially with Covid-19 in the Mix.” CNN, Cable News Network, 6 Sept. 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/06/health/flu-covid-winter-us/index.html.
- “Influenza.” Department of Health, https://www.health.nd.gov/flu?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Flu&utm_content=General.
- Mayo Clinic News Network. Name super/CG: Abinash Virk, M.D./Infectious Diseases/Mayo Clinic.