Why experts predict a bad flu season 2022-2023

Why experts predict a bad flu season 2022-2023

flu season has almost always been a predictable part of every winter, but the COVID-19 The pandemic has thrown things out of control. The 2020-2021 flu season was practically non-existent due to COVID-19 precautions and lockdowns, and last year’s flu season was definitely tempered compared to years before the pandemic.

But many health experts predict that the 2022-2023 flu season will be severe. A great reason? Australia, which is in the southern hemisphere and experiences its flu season before ours, had an amazing flu season.

The country had its worst flu season in five years, with cases three times higher than average according to government surveillance reports. Flu cases also peaked about two months earlier than usual, indicating the country had an early bout of flu.

“The southern hemisphere has had a pretty bad flu season and it came early,” said Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Bloomberg at the end of last month. “Influenza, as we have all experienced for many years, can be a serious illness, especially when the season is bad.”

Why could this flu season be bad and what can you do to prepare now? Infectious disease experts analyze it.

Why could this year’s flu season be bad?

Infectious disease and public health experts in the Northern Hemisphere generally view what’s happening in the Southern Hemisphere as a predictor of where things will go during our winter, explains Amesh A. Adalja, MD, an infectious disease expert and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center. for Health Safety. “The planet has two hemispheres that have opposite respiratory viral seasons,” she says. “So Australia’s flu season, which just ended, often predicts what’s going to happen in the Northern Hemisphere.”

Based on what just happened in Australia, “it looks like we’re not going to be spared another flu season,” says Dr. Adalja.

William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agrees. “Although what happens in the southern hemisphere doesn’t always directly predict what will happen here, we are advised to be prepared,” he says.

It’s also concerning that many people haven’t been exposed to the flu in recent years due to COVID-19 restrictions and low levels of flu circulation, says Thomas Russo, MD, professor and chief of infectious diseases at the University from Buffalo. In New York. “Immunity to respiratory viruses, including the flu, declines over time,” he says. “People haven’t seen the virus naturally for a couple of years and a lot of people don’t get the flu shot.” That, he says, increases the risk that people who aren’t vaccinated against the flu will develop more severe cases if they do get infected.

This is the first winter that COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in most areas of the country, including on public transportation, says Dr. Russo. “People are interacting closely again and there are very few mandates,” he says. “That is a setup for increased transmission of influenza and other respiratory viruses.”

How to protect yourself against the flu now

Flu season in the US typically begins in October, peaks between December and February, and can last as late as May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION). That’s why it’s a good idea to get a flu shot before Halloween, if possible, says Dr. Schaffner.

“The most important thing people can do is get vaccinated against the flu,” he says. “People have been so worried about COVID that they have forgotten about the flu, but the flu can be serious, too.”

It’s also not a bad idea to stock up on high-quality masks, like N95s, says Dr. Russo. “Masks work to prevent COVID-19 and the flu,” he says.

If you are considered to be at high risk for serious complications from the flu and cases start to appear in your area, Dr. Schaffner recommends wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces.

In general, experts shouldn’t expect the mild flu seasons we’ve been enjoying lately to last. “I think we’re definitely going to have a more significant flu season than we did last year,” says Dr. Russo. “It is important to be prepared”

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