The flu could be much worse this season. this is why

The flu could be much worse this season.  this is why

More than two and a half years into the battle against COVID-19, officials are warning that this fall and winter could see the rebound of a more traditional foe: the flu.

the flu has been largely dormant the past two seasons, a development some attribute to infection prevention protocols put in place to ward off the coronavirus.

But with measures like mandatory face coverings, physical distancing and limitations on business and social activities being shelved amid better pandemic conditions, California could be in line for a more active flu season this year.

“It is not clear what this fall and winter will look like. However, because fewer masks are worn and there is more mixing, we are likely to see much more influenza than we have seen in the last two years,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

This raises the possibility that some officials have previously warned about but has yet to materialize in the United States: a scenario in which the coronavirus and the flu are circulating in high levels simultaneously.

“We could experience a lot of transmission of influenza and COVID at the same time,” said Ferrer, who urged residents to get vaccinated against the flu and updated COVID-19 booster which is designed to protect against the most recent circulating coronavirus strains.

One warning sign comes from Australia, which saw its winter spike in laboratory-confirmed flu cases reach a level not seen since at least 2017, according to data presented by Ferrer. Australia, in the southern hemisphere, has its autumn beginning in March and its winter beginning in June.

“They experienced a relatively severe flu season dominated by [the variant] H3N2, which is what is circulating here. And it also started earlier than usual this year, at the end of April, and then… the cases went up quite a bit. Flu season also ended earlier than usual, with cases declining sharply at the end of July,” Ferrer said.

According to the California Department of Public Health, flu activity typically begins to increase nationally in late November or December. As a result, officials recommend that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot sometime this month, since it takes a few weeks for the vaccination to reach full potency.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, suggested that eligible people get their flu shot and updated COVID-19 booster no later than October, or as soon as possible. possible after that date.

“If you’re trick-or-treating for Halloween and you haven’t had your flu shot yet or you haven’t gotten your booster, that’s probably the time you really should run out and get vaccinated,” he said.

As with COVID-19, older people are at higher risk of developing serious illness from the flu. People who are immunocompromised, have underlying health conditions, or whose work requires them to be in contact with many people, especially in situations where ventilation is poor, are also at increased risk.

“Influenza vaccines keep people out of the hospital, keeping our health care system open to help with other illnesses during the winter,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s director of public health, said in a statement.

Residents can visit to make an appointment to get a flu shot or find a walk-in clinic. Officials say you can get both a flu shot and an updated COVID-19 booster during the same visit.

There may be a larger group of people in the US more susceptible to the flu this fall and winter, as the low rate of infections over the past few years gave people less chance of developing immunity as well as getting vaccinated against the flu, Ferrer said.

During the 2020-21 season, just over 49% of Californians 6 months and older received the flu vaccine, according to estimates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationwide, there is an average of about 35,000 flu deaths each year. What’s wrong with it from distance from an estimated 12,000 deaths during the 2011-12 season to 61,000 deaths during the 2017-18 season.

The past two winters in Los Angeles County have been very quiet for the flu, in large part due to mandatory mask orders and a general atmosphere of caution amid sharp seasonal increases in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Once Los Angeles County finished its universal public indoor mask term in early March, flu cases began to rise and peaked in May, unusually late in a typical season. At its peak, about 15% of respiratory samples in Los Angeles County sentinel surveillance labs detected influenza.

Officials say the fall and winter seasons provide opportunities for the spread of both the coronavirus and the flu, in part because people are spending more time indoors as temperatures drop and daylight hours get shorter.

“From Halloween through New Year’s Eve, families and friends tend to get together more often and travel farther to see each other over the holidays,” Ferrer said. “As a result, people are spending more time socializing indoors, where respiratory viruses can accumulate more and can pass more easily from one person to another, especially if ventilation is poor.”

The increase in holiday travel, he added, means “respiratory viruses can travel longer distances, hopping across the country and the world.”

Colder weather also increases the ability of viruses to spread.

“As the days get shorter in the winter and the air gets cooler, it holds less water on average and the absolute humidity in the air it tends to be lower,” Ferrer said. “When absolute humidity drops, virus-containing aerosol droplets also tend to contain less water. They get smaller, lighter and can travel further.”

That means cooler temperatures allow viruses to remain viable in the air longer, ready to infect more people. Colder air also tends to put more pressure on our respiratory systems, and there’s less blood flow and less ability to clear invading viruses, Ferrer said.

A recently published study examining the weather and COVID case rates of 455 cities in 20 countries for much of 2020 found that “lower overall temperatures and lower absolute humidity were associated with these higher case rates.” of COVID-19,” Ferrer said.

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