Chicago expert fears this flu season will be worse than normal. Here’s Why – NBC Chicago

Chicago expert fears this flu season will be worse than normal.  Here’s Why – NBC Chicago

With growing concern about COVID-19 among health experts as winter approaches, a lack of mitigation measures and widespread use of face masks have officials fearing the worst flu season since the start is looming. of the pandemic.

While flu season has yet to reach Chicago in any measurable way, the city’s top doctor is sounding the alarm about a potentially active flu season.

“I’d be surprised if this year we didn’t have the worst flu season we’ve ever had while COVID has been with us, and I’m not sure what it’s going to be like,” said Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. of the Chicago Department of Public Health said Tuesday during a Facebook Live.

With fewer mitigation measures in place, the flu is expected to have a significant presence in the Chicago area for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

nbc news reported in August that flu was on the rise in Australia, marking a change for the country since the start of the pandemic. On August 4, the country reported its worst flu season in five years.

“The southern hemisphere is our best predictor of what the northern hemisphere is going to look like for flu season and respiratory season because the seasons are backwards,” Arwady said. “So if I want to know what our winter would be like in terms of flu, the best place to look is the southern hemisphere winter, our summer, and Australia has had a terrible flu season that, you know, they’re coming out of now. Chile , some other countries in the southern hemisphere have had bad flu seasons.”

As for how to mitigate the impact of the potential increase in flu cases, a flu shot is the best protection.

“I’m more worried about [flu season] than I have been in any of the previous years. Our biggest concern was that we know the flu is a big strain in Chicago every year at the start,” Arwady said, referring to the hospital’s ability to die from the flu.”

Arwady added that staying ahead of the flu by getting vaccinated now could go a long way toward reducing the impact of the virus next winter.

“Getting that vaccine right now is what we want people to do,” Arwady said. “It takes a couple of weeks for the protection to kick in after you get the flu shot. So once the flu gets bad here, yes, you can get vaccinated then, but it’s better to have gotten it before then.” that we see serious problems”. flu figures.

Another point related to the best doctor in Chicago: the stress that the flu virus creates in the Chicago hospital system.

“I am concerned that our expected regular increase in flu could also add to an increase in COVID,” Arwady said. “The hope is that it’s not some crazy new variant.”

As for COVID-19 cases this coming winter, it is recommended to get a bivalent booster to help protect against recent variants of the virus.

While health experts believe that COVID-19 is not the threat that it was at the start of the pandemic, vaccines for both COVID and the flu are recommended as both viruses are expected to increase due to carry out more activities indoors and the general lack of mitigation measures.

In the fall of 2020, COVID cases spiked to record levels, with hospitals reaching their breaking point from the influx of new cases through the end of November.

In 2021, things got even worse thanks to the emergence of the omicron variant of COVID, with Illinois averaging nearly 33,000 new coronavirus cases per day during the pandemic’s worst surge.

This year, officials hope new treatment options and vaccines will help prevent a similar rise. Both the FDA and CDC have licensed new COVID vaccine boosters that were formulated specifically to fight omicron variants of the disease, and the wide availability of antivirals like Paxlovid has also given doctors hope that any increase in cases could be reversed.

“What worries me is not if there is a surge with omicron, but if we don’t get a high uptake of the updated vaccine, and we continue to see a lot of mutations, and a variant emerges that is really unlike anything we’ve seen before,” he said last month. “That’s what happened last December and January.”

Fears of a new variant emerging are also worrying public health experts about another possible spike in cases this winter.

As of Tuesday, the omicron BA.5 subvariant, which has been the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States for more than three months, was still responsible for four out of five cases of the virus, but its control is beginning. to loosen up while two other variants gain strength.

According to the latest figures from the CDC, BA.5 is responsible for approximately 81.3% of COVID cases in the United States, up from 83.2% a week ago.

The BA.5 subvariant rose to prominence at the same time as the BA.4 subvariant, but it is a descendant of BA.4 that is growing faster in the US. According to CDC estimates, BA.4.6 is responsible for the 12.8% of cases. this week, up from just under 12% a week ago.

The BF.7 subvariant, a descendant of BA.5, is responsible for 3.4%, according to CDC estimates.

Like other evolutions of the COVID virus, the new spike proteins in both BA.4.6 and BF.7 are helping the virus better evade both the natural immunity conferred by earlier iterations of omicron and the immunity gained by vaccination, even with new reinforcements on the market.

“I would be the happiest person in the world if we get to February or March and we have seen nothing or very little happen on the COVID front, we have seen a very mild flu season,” Arwady continued. “I would really feel more confident that we’re even further past COVID as a society, whereas right now, I love that we’re at low COVID – we should be celebrating that, thank you Chicago, but… I’m, appropriately, I think based on what we’ve learned about COVID, a little worried about what we may see this fall and winter.”

Additionally, further relaxation of COVID guidelines could bring the return of other respiratory viruses.

“Unless behavior changes and people go back to wearing masks, we’re going to see a lot more of all these respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Sharon Welbel, director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control for the Cook County Health Department. “We’re already seeing some influenza.”

Arwady echoed that concern Tuesday, noting that without the use of masks, children specifically could see a return of more common viruses to higher levels than they have been.

“I’m concerned that particularly in children, where we had a lot of masking before, we weren’t seeing a lot of the more routine childhood viruses at such high levels and now we’re seeing them now,” Arwady said.

And while COVID cases are down and COVID booster shots targeting Omicron are underway, health experts remain concerned that a winter COVID surge or a new variant could change things significantly.

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