November 28, 2022

DENVER, Colorado – Health officials have officially declared this flu season an epidemic, which means there could be a triple epidemic situation in the future, with flu, RSV and COVID.

For the first time in a decade, the US is seeing its highest flu hospitalization rates for this time of year. It comes at a prime time for health fatigue as more people drop their COVID safety measures like wearing masks, washing their hands and extra cleaning.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed thinking about so many different types of activities and environments, and you hope that society will be more protected as a result of what we’ve learned from COVID, not less,” said Dr. James Neid, who is the director of Medical Prevention of Infections at the Aurora Medical Center.

Neid may be working in a state that hasn’t yet seen high flu numbers, but he says he’s still urging his community to take action.

“Prevention is really where it’s at. If we can’t go to those extreme situations, that’s where we all want it to be. Where it’s treatable and manageable instead of being undervaccinated and overwhelmed,” Neid said.

Seventeen states, along with Washington, DC and New York City, are reporting high or very high respiratory disease activity. Virginia is one such state.

Dr. Brooke Rossheim is a medical public health specialist with the Virginia Bureau of Epidemiology. He points out that these high figures are in direct correlation with human activity in recent years.

“We are seeing high levels of influenza activity in virtually every region of the state,” Dr. Rossheim said. “We didn’t see a lot of flu activity really because of a number of things. Number one people were masking and number two, that may have been the biggest thing, people were in quarantine.”

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 1.6 million cases of the flu, 13,000 hospitalizations and 730 deaths.

“It’s hard to figure out if this is due to not masking, is it because people are out and more, is it because school is in session? I think it’s probably a combination of all of the above,” Rossheim said. “It’s not that people’s immune systems don’t work well. Now we’re playing a bit of immune catch-up, if you will.”

Experts say the key to staying healthy is getting vaccinated.

“I think maybe it’s understandable fatigue, but the fact is there’s virtually no downside, and they’re extremely effective, and the flu kills tens of thousands of people a year, and that’s nothing,” said the Dr. Neid.

In the United States, flu vaccination rates are lower than usual. Experts say flu vaccinations for adults are down about 5 million compared to last year at the same time. Also, the CDC data tracker says only 8.4% of eligible Americans have received a new, updated COVID-19 booster.

“Respiratory viruses, respiratory diseases are problematic. They cause lost work, preventing them is by far the best,” Neid said. “Flu season usually lasts four to six months, so if you haven’t gotten it now, it’s still a good time to get it.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *