Predictions From The Southern Hemisphere
Normally, scientists can look to the Southern Hemisphere, which has most of its flu cases during our summer, to get a good idea of how our flu season will unfold. But many countries south of the equator still have strict COVID mitigation measures in place, and that makes it more difficult to predict what will happen here, Rock says.
Australia, for example, has extremely tight border control and has implemented strict lockdowns to control COVID-19 outbreaks. Likewise, in many Southeast Asian countries, mask-wearing is more accepted and ubiquitous than in the United States.
Those measures may keep flu cases low in those countries but dont necessarily foretell a similar trend for the U.S., especially if Americans as a whole take fewer precautions. A really important variable is that behavioral variable, Meyers says, and we dont have a crystal ball for the policies that will be put in place and the behaviors people will adopt over the next few months.
From Pandemic To Twindemic: What Will The 20212022 Flu Season Bring
Measures imposed by governments across the world have helped to curb the spread of influenza and other infectious diseases.
Across the globe, measures that aimed to curb the transmission of COVID-19, including travel restrictions, wearing masks, and other strategies have also helped to limit the spread of influenza and other infectious diseases.
Consequently, in 20202021, the US and many countries in Europe observed their lowest influenza levels in recent years. However, with the continued circulation of COVID-19 and easing pandemic restrictions, many countries face the risk of rising case numbers for both COVID-19 and influenza this winter a phenomenon coined the Twindemic. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued updated flu guidelines to mitigate the effects of the so-called Twindemic. GlobalData epidemiologists expect that the revised guidelines paired with the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 will be critical to mitigate the surge in influenza and influenza-like illness in the 20212022 season.
Whats The Best Way To Keep Myself And My Family Safe
Definitely make sure everyone gets the flu shotpreferably before the end of October to make sure it works through the entire flu season. I look at the flu vaccine the same way I look at wearing a maskyoure protecting others as well as yourself, says Dr. Pergam. There are a lot of people with weakened immune systems or who cant get the flu vaccine, like newborns and those with cancer. Getting vaccinated protects those people as well as you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends keeping your distance from anyone who is sick, washing your hands regularly, reducing how often you touch your face, and disinfecting surfaces that you touch oftenall actions youre likely already taking.
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How Bad Will This Flu Season Be
Flu seasons are tough to forecast, but a Rush expert says there’s cause for optimism
The 20202021 flu season was the mildest on record, but experts cant rule out a twin-demic of influenza and COVID-19 this time around.
Last year, flu cases were 99% lower than a typical flu season. In the Emergency Department at Rush University Medical Center, staff rarely saw patients with severe flu. It was essentially nonexistent, says Edward J. Ward, MD, MPH, vice chairperson and associate professor of emergency medicine. We just didnt see it.
There are likely several reasons why last years flu season was so mild, says Michael Lin, MD, MPH, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Rush.
COVID mitigation efforts, such as face masking, social distancing, and hand hygiene, played a major role, he says. Thats not surprising, given that respiratory viruses like COVID-19 and influenza spread in similar ways.
But there was another factor: More people got vaccinated against the flu. People were just more dialed into the idea of vaccination and being protected, he says.
Why Does The Flu Spread Particularly Well In Cold Weather
The classic respiratory virus season starts around November and ends in February or March, says Steven Pergam, MD, medical director of infection prevention at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. In the winter, cold, dry air tends to be more able to transmit infections, and people are inside more with others, where the viruses can be passed around.
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Flu Vaccines During The Covid
Did we need to get a flu vaccine earlier during the 2020-2021 flu season ?
There was no change in CDCs recommendation on timing of vaccination last flu season. Getting vaccinated in July or August is too early, especially for older people, because of the likelihood of reduced protection against flu later in the flu season. September and October are good times to get vaccinated. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even in January or later.
More information for vaccination timing for the 2020-2021 flu season
Were there changes in how and where flu vaccines were given in fall and winter or 2020-2021?
Prior to the 2020-2021 flu season, CDC worked with health care providers and state and local health departments to develop contingency plans on how to vaccinate people against flu without increasing their risk of exposure to respiratory disease, like the virus that causes COVID-19. This included releasing Interim Guidance for Immunization Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Preliminary coverage data from September 2020 suggest there were some changes in where people got vaccinated early in 2020-2021. For example, the proportion of people reporting getting a flu vaccination at a store was significantly higher than the equivalent proportion for the 201920 season , and the proportion reporting vaccination at a doctors office was significantly lower than 201920 .
This recommendation has since been .
Little Protection Against Flu
Increasing COVID-19 transmission isn’t the only issue hanging over Australia’s hospitals this winter.
Professor Bennett warned the community had little natural protection against influenza this year a by-product of social-distancing restrictions imposed on people in 2020 and 2021.
“You might find that in areas where you have high vaccine uptake it’s helping manage it, but really that reduced immunity across the population does put us more at risk, and the season started early,” she said.
All states are seeing a rise in respiratory illnesses, in presentations to emergency departments and in hospitalisation. This is due, in part, to increased COVID-19 PCR testing, which also flags instances of influenza.
The last non-pandemic flu season, in 2019, saw Australia record more than 287,700 cases.
In the first six months of this year, the country has already recorded more than half that total .
So far this year, there have been almost 9,400 presentations to hospital emergency departments with influenza-like illness in NSW, of which more than 1,300 have been admitted.
NSW Health is expecting a surge in flu activity right through winter, urging residents to get vaccinated before the peak hits.
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Why Do Some People Not Feel Well Or Feel Like They Have Flu Symptoms After Getting A Flu Vaccine
While a flu vaccine cannot give you the flu, there may be times when you dont feel well after getting your flu vaccine. Heres why:
- You may get some mild and temporary side effects after your flu vaccine, such as soreness or redness where you got your shot, muscle aches, headache or a low fever. These common side effects usually begin soon after you get the vaccine and last 1-2 days. These reactions are a sign that your immune system is working and that your body is building protection against flu.
- You could become sick from other respiratory viruses that are spreading during flu season. A flu vaccine only protects you from the flu, not other illnesses like COVID-19 or the common cold.
- You could encounter flu viruses, which cause the flu, shortly before getting your flu vaccine or during the 2 weeks after getting the vaccine when your body is still building immunity. As a result, you could get the flu before the vaccine has the chance to protect you.
- You could experience flu-like symptoms, even after getting vaccinated, because you were exposed to a flu virus that is very different from the viruses that the vaccine is designed to protect against. There are many different flu viruses that spread and cause illness among people. However, even when the circulating flu viruses are not a perfect match to the strains in the flu vaccine, getting a flu vaccine should still help protect you against serious flu illness and its complications.
Were In Such Unusual Circumstances That Its Extremely Difficult To Predict What The Flu Situation Will Be Like This Year Says Tiley
But I think theres a realistic chance it will be very bad either this winter or next because of waning herd immunity, he adds. I think 2022 is more likely to be a problem year because the virus has more time to bounce back.
Immunity due to infection or vaccination against flu wanes over time. Initially the level of immunity can be high enough to prevent reinfection. However, as this immunity wanes , it becomes quite likely that you can be re-infected, even by exactly the same strain that you may have been vaccinated against previously.
In a normal year, reinfection with the same strain of flu would helpfully top up your immunity. But in the past two years there has been a lot less of this topping up going on because of COVID lockdowns and social distancing, so I think immunity will have waned in more people and to a greater degree, says Tiley.
We expect that the severity of flu caused by reinfection would be low – your secondary immune response kicks in quickly to prevent you becoming appreciably sick, unless of course the virus has evolved significantly in the meantime, he says. Nevertheless, by that stage the virus will have replicated in your respiratory tract to a level where it can be successfully passed on to someone else.
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So What Are Doctors Advising You To Do
In short, keep practicing social distancing and masking rules whenever possible. Because we are approaching cold and flu season and still dealing with high Covid-19 case numbers, taking precautions everywhere you can is best.
My advice is always to err on the side of caution and to err on the side of an ounce of prevention rather than a pound of cure, said Dr. Greenspan. The other consideration is that if you do get the flu, you have a greater chance of winding up in a hospital, where not only are your chances of exposure to Covid higher, but you will also be increasing the strain on an already overtaxed healthcare system.
The best news is that much of these things are in our control and all the same things that protect against COVID-19 also protect against colds and flu. Dr. Gillespie recommends implementing healthy lifestyle behaviors that positively impact your immune system. Drinking eight glasses of water a day, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep can help your body prepare for flu season.
In short, doctors want whats best for everyone. They recommend getting your flu shot as soon as possible and masking up whenever in public.
Before you go, check out our favorite all-natural cold and flu remedies for kids:
Q& a With Infectious Disease Specialist Soniya Gandhi Md
The flu seemed to vanish in 2020 as safety measures meant to stop the spread of COVID-19 also worked against the influenza virus. But with some precautions lifted amid widespread vaccination, what will it mean for this year’s flu season?
“We did not see one flu case at Cedars-Sinai last year, which is unheard of. That was because everyone was masking, socially distancing, being very conscious of hand hygiene, and really trying to isolate if they were sick,” said infectious disease specialist SoniyaGandhi, MD, vice president of Medical Affairs and associate chief medical officer at Cedars-Sinai.
Now, as more people are mixing again in social situations and many kids are heading back to the classroom, some experts believe that the flu could come roaring back this fall.
“We’re in uncharted territory,” Gandhi said. “It’s possible that due to the relaxing of COVID-19 safety measures and with not enough public immunity to the flu because few people were exposed to it last year, we may be in for a more severe flu season. Because the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are so similar, it will be critical to get tested if you become sick.”
Gandhi spoke with the Cedars-Sinai Newsroom to explain why it’s important to determine which illness you might have and to answer common questions about how to navigate this unprecedented flu season.
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Why Should I Get The Flu Vaccine
This year more than any year we should get vaccinated. In general, combining natural immunity and vaccination helps decrease annually the number of seasonal flu and especially severe flu. Due to last year’s missed season the natural immunity has be waning significantly and this could place people, especially young children, at higher risk to get the flu virus therefore if we don’t have the natural immunity, then we have to rely on other “weapons” and overall, at this time the vaccine is our best weapon against the flu, and is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.
What Should I Do If I Think I Am Getting The Flu
Stay home, rest, and avoid contact with others except to get medical care if needed, experts say. Avoid contact with others for at least 24 hours after the fever subsides to avoid spreading the flu.
Be on the lookout for emergency warning signs that you may be getting serious flu-related complications.
In children, these include:
- Symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and worsening cough.
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The Flu Vanished During Covid What Will Its Return Look Like
There have been fewer influenza cases in the United States this flu season than in any on record. About 2,000 cases have been recorded since late September, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In recent years, the average number of cases over the same period was about 206,000.
As measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus were implemented around the country in March 2020, influenza quickly disappeared, and it still has not returned. The latest flu season, which normally would have run until next month, essentially never happened.
After fears that a twindemic could batter the country, the absence of the flu was a much needed reprieve that eased the burden on an overwhelmed health care system. But the lack of exposure to the flu could also make the population more susceptible to the virus when it returns and experts say its return is certain.
We do not know when it will come back in the United States, but we know it will come back, said Sonja Olsen, an epidemiologist at the C.D.C.
Experts are less certain about what will happen when the flu does return. In the coming months as millions of people return to public transit, restaurants, schools and offices influenza outbreaks could be more widespread than normal, they say, or could occur at unusual times of the year. But its also possible that the virus that returns is less dangerous, having not had the opportunity to evolve while it was on hiatus.
Will This Years Flu Vaccine Be Effective
Another factor that will affect the severity of the flu season is how well the 2021-2022 vaccine matches circulating strains. So far, there appears to be less genetic diversity among circulating flu viruses than normal, which is a good sign, Meyers says. If there hasnt been that much evolution , if theres not that much genetic diversity, it may mean that our current vaccines are going to be a better match for the circulating strains and therefore offer better protection, she says.
All the approved flu vaccines this year will be quadrivalent, which means they offer protection against four strains of flu, according to the CDC. Two of the strains are new compared to last years vaccine.
Adults age 65 and older should get the high-dose flu vaccine or the adjuvanted flu vaccine, the CDC says both have been shown to evoke a stronger immune response in older adults.
Health care providers also hope to continue to boost the number of Americans who get the flu vaccine and hit another record this year. To make it easier, if you are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster in September or October, you can get the flu vaccine at the same time, Rock says.
The more people who are vaccinated, the less flu circulates and the more protection there is for everybody, including the elderly, Rock says.
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Will We See The Flu Make A Comeback Next Fall
When the pandemic restrictions are lifted, experts suspect the flu will make a comeback.
Flu is one of the most consistent and persistent illnesses in recorded medical history, with reports of influenza-like illness dating back to ancient Greece, Showalter said.
While we will likely see minimal flu activity in the 2021-2022 flu season due to continued safety precautions, Showalter said the flu isnt going anywhere.
Kelley is hopeful that the mitigation measures adopted to contain COVID-19 will last and help contain the flu in the future.
Building and maintaining a strong immune system, washing hands, self-isolating when you dont feel well, and even wearing a mask during the peak flu season will all reduce the spread of flu, even after the pandemic is history, Kelley said.