CHICAGO -- Medical experts warn the approaching flu season could be particularly severe, renewing fears of a potential “twindemic,” with COVID-19 still spreading.
In preparation, health officials are urging the public to get vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible. Here are eight things to know about the upcoming flu season and getting your annual flu shot during the pandemic:
1. After a profoundly mild flu season last year, this one might be rough.
Influenza was at record low levels last year across the United States, mostly due to masking and social distance protocols amid the pandemic.
But that means many people weren’t exposed to the flu last season and didn’t have the opportunity to boost their immunity. At the same time, some pandemic restrictions have been loosened or dropped, but COVID-19 is still circulating, said Dr. Jacqueline Korpics, the Cook County Department of Public Health’s medical director for COVID-19.
“There is concern this will be an especially bad flu season due to loosening of mitigations, the fact that many of us were not exposed last year due to COVID mitigations and because influenza will be circulating simultaneously with COVID,” she said. “So individuals could potentially get both at the same time, which could lead to more severe illness and more deaths.”
The recent surge in local cases of another respiratory illness — respiratory syncytial virus or RSV — might also be a harbinger of an impending bad flu season, said Dr. Kelly Michelson, professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
“If flu behaves like RSV, we should prepare for lots of illness,” she said.
2. Now is a good time to get the flu shot.
Ideally, everyone would be vaccinated against the flu by the end of October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.