Last fall, as coronavirus circumstances climbed and the world hoped for vaccines, well being specialists feared influenza and Covid-19 would mix for a devastating “twindemic.”
While pandemic measures appeared to maintain the flu at bay, this yr specialists are once more involved, particularly as some international locations and state authorities roll back lockdown rules. Many officers and specialists are urging the general public: Do not dismiss the hazard of the flu, and search a flu vaccine.
“This year we are guaranteed to have the flu, and we are going to have some version of a twindemic,” stated Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “It could really further strain an already extraordinarily stretched, strained, tired-to-the-bone health care system.”
The United States is grappling with a median of more than 160,000 new coronavirus circumstances a day. Hospitals and intensive care items are filling up with Covid-19 patients. At the identical time, masks mandates and social distancing have been relaxed in some locations, which means contagious respiratory sicknesses can unfold extra simply than they did final yr.
Dr. Schaffner warned that medical suppliers now needed to remind folks about influenza: “We are going to have to say, ‘There is another nasty respiratory virus, and don’t blow it off.’”
This flu season not like every other.
In the United States, flu exercise was considerably lower during the 2020-21 season than throughout any earlier flu season since at the very least 1997, the primary for which knowledge is publicly out there.
Scientists stated pandemic precautions probably performed a function, as many individuals adopted masking, social-distancing and hand-washing habits.
“The lack of influenza last year was truly remarkable,” stated Dr. Patrick Jackson, an infectious illness knowledgeable on the University of Virginia. “It may be that peoples’ willingness to wear masks and wash hands regularly and be aware of symptoms may help us moving forward. And I really hope that turns out to be the story.”
Experts hope these behaviors will carry over into the approaching flu season, particularly as extra folks return to public transit, eating places, faculties and workplaces.
That may imply further burdens for hospitals already treating large numbers of Covid sufferers.
“Given our politics, a Covid/flu surge will be unevenly distributed to health care systems,” Dr. Jackson stated.
Who ought to get the flu vaccine and when?
The relative lack of flu circumstances over the past 18 months may additionally imply that population-level immunity to the flu is decrease this season, stated Lynnette Brammer, the chief of the C.D.C.’s home influenza surveillance group.
And whereas it’s nonetheless unsure how the season will play out, she added, relaxed pandemic measures in some locations will “likely result in the resumption of seasonal flu virus circulation.”
“This all could set us up for a potentially severe flu season,” she added.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the season begins in October and can last through May. In the Southern Hemisphere, it sometimes happens from April by way of September.
The C.D.C. advises everybody over the age of 6 months outdated to get the shot, with a few exceptions. Vaccination is very essential for some teams of folks, together with these with underlying well being circumstances, older adults and younger youngsters, Ms. Brammer stated.
It takes about two weeks for cover to develop after vaccination, so specialists suggest getting vaccinated from September by way of the top of October, however even after that it’s higher to get the vaccine than not.
Because viruses mutate, requiring a new vaccine yearly, even individuals who obtained a flu shot final yr want one other this yr, they stated. For any given season, vaccines are tailored to the kinds of influenza viruses — there are many — which are circulating or probably to be circulating.
If I’ve been vaccinated for Covid, do I nonetheless want the flu vaccine?
Yes, one doesn’t defend towards the opposite. Vaccines are meant to focus on particular viruses: Just because the Covid-19 vaccines are manufactured for the coronavirus, flu vaccines goal influenza viruses.
That means flu pictures this yr can be doled out as some individuals are getting preliminary and booster pictures for the coronavirus.
“There is vaccine fatigue out there,” Dr. Schaffner stated. “But we are going to have to tell people, ‘Oh no, you need a different one’, right at the time we are boosting
Can I get the flu vaccine and the Covid vaccine in the same visit?
Yes. The C.D.C. says the vaccine may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines.
Side effects are generally similar when the vaccines are given simultaneously as when they are administered alone, the C.D.C. says.
Dr. Kevin Ban, the chief medical officer at Walgreens, said, “Not only is it possible, but we highly encourage people to be vaccinated for both flu and Covid.”
Vaccines obtained on the similar time don’t trigger cumulative reactions, Dr. L.J. Tan, Immunization Action Coalition’s Chief Policy and Partnerships Officer, stated in an interview. “It is not like you are adding it on.”
Common reactions to the flu vaccine may be a sore arm, and a few folks would possibly get a little drained, he stated.
If you do get the flu shot and the Covid-19 vaccine on the similar time, specialists advise utilizing totally different arms to keep away from soreness, or at the very least spacing the injection website for every shot by at least one inch.
Understand Vaccine and Mask Mandates within the U.S.
- Vaccine guidelines. On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for folks 16 and up, paving the best way for a rise in mandates in each the private and non-private sectors. Private firms have been increasingly mandating vaccines for workers. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court docket challenges.
- Mask guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that every one Americans, regardless of vaccination standing, put on masks in indoor public locations inside areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the steerage it supplied in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and the place states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has change into contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 faculties and universities are requiring college students to be vaccinated towards Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. Both California and New York City have launched vaccine mandates for schooling workers. A survey launched in August discovered that many American dad and mom of school-age youngsters are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots.
- Hospitals and medical facilities. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination charges of their communities, even inside their work pressure.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of staff and prospects for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement does not begin until Sept. 13. Teachers and other education workers within the metropolis’s huge faculty system might want to have at the very least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, with out the choice of weekly testing. City hospital workers should additionally get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar guidelines are in place for New York State workers.
- At the federal degree. The Pentagon introduced that it might search to make coronavirus vaccinations necessary for the nation’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the center of September. President Biden introduced that all civilian federal employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo common testing, social distancing, masks necessities and restrictions on most journey.
Can I catch the flu and Covid on the similar time?
Yes. The flu, Covid-19 and different respiratory sicknesses have related symptoms, together with cough, fever and physique aches. Only testing can determine which virus a affected person has, or if a affected person has each.
Different checks are used for every, and figuring out the distinction is important to remedy. Antiviral therapies exist for influenza, and a few sufferers with Covid-19 obtain monoclonal antibody remedy.
“Doctors are going to have to do a whole lot more testing this year than in the past,” Dr. Schaffner stated. “It is important to know who has got what.”
What about youngsters and pregnant ladies?
About 80 p.c of youngsters who’ve died of influenza in previous years had not been vaccinated, in accordance with research cited this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The flu has the capability to take a “perfectly normal child and put them in the emergency room in 48 hours,” Dr. Schaffner stated. Children have died from the flu after they turned septic or acquired pneumonia, he stated.
An enormous issue for the low flu numbers final season was that youngsters have been attending faculty remotely and avoiding teams, he stated.
“Children are really the great disseminators of the influenza virus,” Dr. Schaffner stated. “They shed more virus than do adults, and they shed the virus for a longer period of time. They spread it among themselves and then bring it home.”
This tutorial yr, many youngsters are going again to in-person studying, and a few are not required to wear masks.
If youngsters who haven’t gotten a flu shot get the flu, they need to nonetheless be vaccinated when they recover. Experts added that youngsters sick with Covid-19 shouldn’t get the flu vaccine till they’ve recovered.
They additionally suggest pregnant ladies get the flu vaccine, as its safety passes by way of the placenta.
How is flu handled?
Antibiotics will not be efficient towards the flu, however antiviral medicine can ease signs. They ought to ideally be given inside 48 hours of the onset of signs. People with the flu ought to relaxation and drink a lot of water, and most will recuperate inside a week.
Where can I get the vaccine?
Public well being officers and specialists stated that vaccination was so essential as a result of it reduces the probabilities of extreme, generally deadly sickness.
“We can’t shut it off like a light switch,” Dr. Schaffner stated. “But we can dim it.”