Seasonal flu expected to collide with COVID-19 in ‘twindemic’

Aug 30, 2021, 5:19 PM | Updated: 9:35 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The seasonal flu this fall will likely arrive on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doctors and medical experts in Utah said they were concerned that a “twindemic” could further stress our hospitals and health care systems.

If we don’t fight off the flu as vigorously as COVID-19, our health care systems and caregivers could be further stressed.

“Flu puts a lot of people in the hospital every year. With COVID-19 surging, still in our community, we really can’t afford to add influenza hospitalizations on top of that,” said Stephen Goldstein, Ph.D., a post-doctoral researcher and evolutionary virologist at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Goldstein pointed out that this year, most public health restrictions have been lifted, mask use is uneven and many people are resuming what looks like normal life.

People are not as cautious about respiratory infections as they were last year early in the COVID-19 pandemic. So other respiratory illnesses are coming back, and they expect the flu will, too.

“There’s a real risk that if COVID-19 infections spike in the late fall and winter, that that’s going to happen at the same time as resurgence of influenza,” Goldstein said. “That would be bad for our health care systems.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu was at record-low levels last winter.

“What that tells us is that the same measures that we used to try to tamp down the COVID-19 pandemic also have an affect on seasonal flu, which spreads in very similar ways,” the researcher said.

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, a serious illness for kids, is also back.

It normally surges in January and February, so it is very unusual that it is transmitting in our communities during the summer.

“We’re having a huge number of cases of RSV right now that’s putting kids in the hospital as well, increasing the burden on the pediatric health care system,” said Goldstein.

Doctors recommend vaccination against COVID-19 and the seasonal flu to protect yourself, others around you and the community as a whole.

“Those two things are what can really help you stay out of the hospital if you do get sick this winter,” said Goldstein.

Officials with the Utah Department of Health said the flu vaccine has started to arrive.

In the weeks ahead, they recommend making a plan to get that flu shot where you normally get it.

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Seasonal flu expected to collide with COVID-19 in ‘twindemic’