Winter flu season stirs concerns of ‘catastrophic’ double-demic [Lancaster Watchdog] | Health


After a virtually non-existent flu season last year, health officials across Pennsylvania and the country are bracing for what could be a catastrophic winter flu season.

That’s because COVID-19 attenuations last season mean fewer Americans last contracted the flu and are immune to future infection.

But it’s also going to be more difficult to predict this season, which runs from October to May.

The reason?

Typically, researchers look to the southern hemisphere for clues. The flu season here runs from April to September. Influenza transmission in Australia, for example, has been low. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the same for the United States.

This is because Australia has had an extremely narrow border to control COVID-19 outbreaks, and countries in Southeast Asia – more than the United States – have adopted the wearing of masks, this which reduces the spread of all respiratory viruses.

“What we are currently seeing in our hospitals is an increase in the volumes of all patients, not just COVID-19,” said Dr. John D. Goldman, infectious disease specialist at UPMC, in a report. e-mail to LNP | Lancaster online.

Goldman added, “People are taking less precautions and exposing themselves, so we are seeing a regional increase in other respiratory viruses and other illnesses alongside COVID-19. “

Closures last year helped the United States avoid what health officials feared was a convergence of influenza and COVID-19 in what has been dubbed the “twin-demie.”

Those fears, however, have been rekindled this year.

“This has the potential to be a disaster,” said Dr. Vito DiCamillo, medical director of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Urgent Care.

DiCamillo said LG Health is already seeing “a ton” of viral illnesses such as croup, foot-and-mouth disease and respiratory tract viruses. And the flu too.

“It’s definitely over there,” DiCamillo said of the flu.

Predictive modeling shows the United States could see 600,000 influenza hospitalizations this season, about 100,000 more, or 20% more, than normal.

“Predictive models are of concern,” Goldman said.

Since the 2014-15 influenza season, Pennsylvania has recorded an average of more than 85,000 cases. If the Pitt Public Health pattern holds, a 20% increase in hospitalizations could equal 17,000 or more hospitalizations.

In the last flu season, Pennsylvania recorded 3,664 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases, a 95% drop from the previous season, which had more than 130,000 cases.

State and federal health officials attribute the low number of influenza cases to COVID-19 mitigation measures put in place last year – social distancing, masking and good hand hygiene – as well as record number of Americans vaccinated against influenza, about 52%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu shot, or nasal spray, for anyone 6 months and older.

“While we know we had a very mild flu last year, this year is really full of unknowns,” Pennsylvania Acting Medical Officer Dr Denise Johnson said at a recent conference. hurry.

With the similarities in symptoms and the daily number of COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania still exceeding 2,000 infections, health officials are urging the public to get vaccinated for both. And if not, at least hide yourself in public.

“It’s really hard to tell if you have the flu or COVID-19,” Johnson said.

You can get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Because it takes about two weeks to be fully protected from the flu, health officials recommend getting the flu shot before the end of October.

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