Flu season is expected to make a comeback with more threatening risks

Rachel Yim, Senior Reporter

As flu season is approaching and as COVID-19 is on the surge, health professionals warn of even more severe impacts of what some are calling a “twindemic” to hit this year.

People have faced different challenges during the pandemic, and they are now about to enter the flu season with many concerns and warnings. According to physicians and researchers, the season is known to strike earlier this year and more severely than in past years because many haven’t been able to build up a natural immune defense system while working from home and avoiding contact with others.

The flu – a very common form of viral infection – can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications. As the United States prepares for the upcoming flu season, questions spread regarding how to deal with two viruses at the same time, including the safety and efficacy of receiving two different vaccines.

According to Dr. Jason R. McKnight, a clinical assistant professor of the Department of Primary Care and Population Health at Texas A&M University College of Medicine, most people need both vaccines to ensure the best health outcomes.

Although the number of flu cases in the U.S. and around the world significantly dropped last year due to masking and social distancing, with new variants of COVID-19 (especially the Delta variant) and lifted restrictions across the country, it is not surprising to see increased cases for both viruses.

“The big concern this year, of course, is that we are going to see what could be a perfect storm of accelerated COVID-19 activity as people gather more inside, in particular, as they become continually fatigued with the mask-wearing, the social distancing, and the hand hygiene, and as they are exposed to seasonal influenza,” Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama, said during an interview with DeseretNews.

It is also important to note that the continuation of the COVID-19 surge and approaching flu season are expected to have a bigger impact on I.C.U. bed capacity at many hospitals. Consistently, the New York Times recently presented data of hospital capacity reported by individual hospitals, and at least 95 percent of the I.C.U. beds well full in about one in four U.S. hospitals.

Then how do we guarantee ourselves safety from both the flu and COVID-19? Well, the best and number one option is to get vaccinated for both. If not, continue to wear masks and avoid large gatherings. That’s the only way to go.

“People who practice safe habits could stay healthier,” McKnight said during an interview with Texas A&M Today. “If you continue to wear a mask and avoid large groups, then your individual risk even this year is fairly low. And if you experience any symptoms, it’s best to just stay home.”

The healthcare system of the country has already been strained by demanded and required care for the COVID-19 patients. Adding the amount of flu cases during the standard year and hospitalizations on top of this will give us a sad and long winter this year.