All the social distancing, mask-wearing and hand washing we did in 2020 was paid off in a remarkably gentle flu season final yr.
Calling the flu exercise for the 2020-2021 season “unusually low” regardless of excessive ranges of testing for it, the US Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention reported considerably fewer instances of the flu final yr in comparison with earlier years. That is nice information, as a result of we warded off what specialists feared might be a “twindemic” of coronavirus and influenza – a virus that may be very critical for some individuals, together with younger kids, older adults and folks with sure well being circumstances, comparable to bronchial asthma and coronary heart illness.
However what does that imply for this yr? Whereas public well being measures meant to curb the coronavirus are nonetheless in place in lots of elements of the nation, and a few individuals proceed to decide on to put on masks and restrict their social gatherings, we’re a extra cellular world than we had been in fall 2020. And which means extra alternative for the flu to unfold.
Will flu season be worse this yr?
“Flu is de facto onerous to foretell,” says Dan Salmon, professor of Worldwide Well being on the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Faculty of Public Well being. “Flu is a virus that we name a ‘sloppy replicator.'” The virus strikes from species to species, he says, and the vaccines developed to stop the flu are made based mostly on scientists’ evaluation of various flu strains from different elements of the world which have earlier flu seasons. However the lack of flu circulating final yr might make this flu season even tougher to foretell than it usually is, Salmon says.
Influenza and the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 are two separate viruses, and due to that they require two separate vaccines. So whereas your COVID-19 photographs will shield you in opposition to extreme illness from the coronavirus, you have to immunity from influenza to stop extreme sickness from the flu.
Who’s eligible for a flu shot?
Most individuals ages 6 months and older ought to get a flu shot, in accordance with the CDC, together with pregnant individuals, the place an an infection with the flu may hurt their growing child. Exceptions to this advice could be in case you had a extreme allergic response to a flu vaccine up to now, or one other “contraindication” (medical cause somebody should not obtain a vaccine or remedy).
If you are over age 65, your physician may give you a higher-dose flu vaccine to offer your immune system an additional enhance, and the CDC warns older adults should not get the flu vaccine too early (in July or August) as a result of which will go away an excessive amount of time for immunity to wane. Pregnant individuals, individuals with sure medical circumstances and older adults should not take the nasal spray vaccine as a result of it incorporates a dwell virus.
However usually, you ought to get no matter flu vaccine is obtainable and accessible to you, Salmon says, and the model or kind should not matter.
Moreover, you might get your flu shot with another vaccine you are scheduled to get, together with the COVID-19 vaccine. And who is aware of, sooner or later, we it is attainable we may have a mixture flu/COVID-19 vaccine. In early September, COVID-19 vaccine-maker Moderna introduced it was growing a vaccine that mixes a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine with its experimental flu vaccine. It is being examined and is not accessible but, but it surely might be an vital growth in well being care if it proves efficient and COVID-19 turns into a seasonal virus.
3 causes you must nonetheless get the flu shot this yr
Past the CDC’s advice, leaving a window open to an infection from one other virus may have probably critical penalties, particularly if somebody in your family is at-risk of extreme illness from both virus.
1. To keep away from getting flu and COVID-19 on the similar time (sure, that’s attainable)
“These viruses are two fully completely different species, so getting vaccinated for one won’t shield you in opposition to the opposite,” Dr. Daren Wu, chief medical officer at Open Door Household Medical Heart, instructed CNET final yr. “What you undoubtedly don’t want is the one-two punch of getting each viruses, which is totally attainable.”
Even in case you’re vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19, experiencing a light breakthrough of COVID-19 in tandem with the flu might be depressing.
“You do not wish to get the flu and COVID on the similar time,” infectious illness knowledgeable Dr. Sandra Kesh instructed CNET final yr. “That could be a scenario that we actually need to attempt to stop. In an older inhabitants it could be probably disastrous, people who find themselves coinfected are going to have a extremely onerous time. And even in youthful adults, a type of infectious ailments actually knocks you out, however the two collectively could be very regarding.”
Moreover, Dr. Wu argued that getting the flu shot is vital as a result of getting sick can decrease your immune system and make you extra inclined to different infections. “Our minds are on COVID-19, however getting the flu will decrease your immune system and may make you extra inclined to all kinds of secondary infections, together with bacterial infections and different viruses comparable to COVID-19,” he stated.
2. Flu and COVID-19 signs can look related
Flu and COVID-19 have a variety of overlap in signs, which may be actually complicated in case you begin to get sick. Nevertheless, all through the pandemic, some individuals have referred to COVID-19 as “simply the flu,” which is not correct, even when an individual experiences cold-like signs or gentle flu signs. The flu and COVID-19 come from two separate viruses.
“Usually, ‘flu’ is used as this generic time period for not feeling good,” Salmon says. “However actually, it is influenza.”
3. To decrease the charges of infectious illness
The truth is, we face a worldwide pandemic that continues to trigger hospitalizations and dying, and we have to put together for the onset of one other infectious illness that may be life-threatening on the similar time. Public well being measures like selecting to get vaccinated even if you’re personally not liable to getting severely sick from COVID-19, washing your fingers incessantly and carrying a masks indoors may also help stop the transmission of each viruses.
When one shot isn’t enough
Some people have speculated about vaccine fatigue, and facing a public sick and tired of hearing about vaccines and the ever-dramatic in the US. Others may feel that the emphasis on public health for the safety of those around you will spill into the yearly flu seasons, where some people are much more vulnerable to severe disease and death than others.
Salmon says he hopes the enthusiasm for vaccines people have realized in the wake of COVID-19 will spur similar enthusiasm for flu vaccines. But, he says, “it cuts in both directions,” and he fears the polarization surrounding COVID-19 vaccines could have the opposite effect on people’s perceptions of vaccines in general. One of the best predictors of whether someone got the coronavirus vaccine was whether they received a flu vaccine in past years, Salmon says.
Still, there’s reason to be hopeful that the lessons we continue to learn in the COVID-19 pandemic will influence actions regarding other viruses.
“That would be great. That would be the potential that we have here, is that people go, ‘wow, vaccines are amazing,'” Salmon says. “Here we have this terrible pandemic and we’re able to really make progress through vaccines. And not only protect ourselves, but protect other people.”
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.