Influenza is always unpredictable. Infectious disease experts like to hedge their predictions carefully. When you’ve seen one flu season, you’ve seen one flu season.
But when forecasters try to figure out what the flu has in store for North America in any given winter, they look to countries like Australia and New Zealand. In Australia and New Zealand, the season usually runs from April to October, the winter months in the southern hemisphere.
This year Australia experienced its worst flu season in five years. The number of cases reached about three times the average for the period and peaked about two months earlier than usual, according to an official government investigation report.
The incidence of influenza-like illness is also higher in New Zealand this year than in the previous two years.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Bloomberg News that the United States should pay attention.
“We’ve had a pretty bad flu season in the Southern Hemisphere, and it hit early,” Fauci said. “As we have all experienced over the years, the flu can be a serious illness, especially when the season is bad.”
He said that means the US could see the flu come back Covid-19 is still circulating at high levels.
A recent government model predicts Covid-19 will peak again in early December.
That would be the first winter the United States has had to deal with high levels of two respiratory viruses circulating together that infectious disease experts have warned about since the pandemic began. right.
When Americans started quarantining, social distancing and masking to slow down Covid in early 2020, the flu all but disappeared.
The flu has stumbled as people have returned to normal routines, but cases have not approached pre-pandemic levels. This means most of us haven’t been exposed to the flu in years.A pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
“Because of these several mild flu seasons in a row, I think the population’s immunity is probably lower than going into an average flu season.
Besides, most Children no longer wear masks at school.
“We know children are a significant source of influenza infection. Daycare takes them home,” says Nayak. Many adults are also not wearing masks and are avoiding crowded places, which “may increase flu transmission” this year.
All of this underscores the need for Americans to be vaccinated. But usually about half don’t. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 45% of Americans received a flu shot last season.Influenza vaccination rates have fallen for several at risk Groups that include pregnant women and children.
The U.S. government will launch a campaign this fall to encourage people to get their flu shot and the latest Covid-19 booster at the same time.
Nayak wonders how these public health messages — urging people to get more vaccines to stop more infections — sound to pandemic-weary Americans. think.
“I think we still have to see what happens to flu vaccination rates, what happens to this,” she said.
All this is still hypothetical. We really don’t know what winter has in store for us in the next eight weeks or so.
“If something similar happens in Australia, I think we’ll have to wait and see what happens in November,” said Jeffrey Sherman, a modeling expert at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. And then it might take off.And of course, on top of that, we have to worry about how it will combine with the Covid epidemic.”
Hospitals continue to be strained and overwhelmed by the simultaneous circulation of two respiratory viruses.
It could also mean that people contract viral illnesses, which can lead to ongoing health problems, serious illness, and even death.
“The flu is not an afterthought,” Sherman said. “Seasonal influenza continues to place an enormous burden on society, and we want to address it.”
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