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Experts warn coming flu season likely to eclipse previous one

Infectious disease experts say getting a flu shot by the end of October is important. They are developed based on the flu strains circulating in other parts of the world.
Experts say there are signs and circumstances that point to a far more active, upcoming flu season.
The number of flu cases in the U.S. is expected to pick up as the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors - coupled with fatigue over COVID mitigation strategies, like mask wearing.
Posted at 3:12 PM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 15:12:51-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After a so-called “twindemic” of COVID-19 and the flu failed to materialize last year, this year's flu season is expected to roar back.

“Because of all the masks and all the precautions, we basically did not have a flu season,” infectious disease expert Dr. David Dodson said of the last flu season.

However, this time around, more cases of the flu are likely to arise.

Dr. Anthony Santella, an infectious disease expert and a professor of health administration policy at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, says this year isn't one to mess around with.

“The flu is incredibly difficult to predict,” he said. “I know everyone wants that crystal ball, 'What's going to happen? When is it going to happen, even outside of COVID?' And that's very challenging.”

He said there are signs and circumstances that point to a far more active, upcoming flu season.

“Children are back at school,” Dr. Santella said. “People are back at work. People are socializing, traveling both domestically and abroad. And that means that those bugs, viruses like what we're talking about, lots of bacteria and other things are circulating.”

Right now, the CDC is tracking confirmed flu cases. Their findings show most of the country is experiencing either a minimal or low number of cases, with the exception of Mississippi, which is seeing a moderate level of flu activity.

Yet, Dr. Santella said that could change as the weather begins to get colder and people spend more time indoors, coupled with COVID fatigue.

“We know the data is pretty clear this year that people feel burdened, they feel frustrated and they feel tired by continuing to maintain those protective health behaviors,” he said.

That is why experts say getting a flu shot by the end of October is so important. The flu vaccines are developed based on the flu strains circulating in other parts of the world.

“This year, they've done things a little bit differently, where instead of having some vaccines that protect against two strains and some that protect against four, all four major vaccine candidates protect against all four strains,” Dr. Santella said.

As for those who have yet to get a COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Santella said it’s safe to get both together.

“You can get them at the same time,” he said. “There's no harm. There's no counteracting of the products.”

Both of which are vaccines created to help people avoid the worst effects of two deadly viruses.