Sept. 29, 2021 — With the Delta variant of COVID-19 nonetheless raging in the USA and intensive care items in components of the nation full of sufferers with the coronavirus, specialists are voicing concern in regards to the added danger of a troublesome flu season.
Two mathematical fashions are predicting a giant rebound within the quantity and severity of flu instances within the 2021-22 season after final yr’s flu season failed to indicate up when public well being measures introduced in to manage COVID-19 appeared to have the additional advantage of stopping the flu.
However each analyses, posted to the medRxiv preprint server and never but peer-reviewed by different specialists, have come to the identical conclusion: The flu might make a comeback this yr.
Within the worst-case state of affairs, the U.S. might see an additional 300,000 to 400,000 hospitalizations from the flu — nearly double the standard quantity — in line with senior research creator Mark Roberts, MD, director of the Public Well being Dynamics Laboratory on the College of Pittsburgh. These numbers may very well be a catastrophe in areas the place hospitals are already full of COVID-19 sufferers.
Waning pure immunity within the public as a consequence of final yr’s lacking flu season might make folks, particularly younger kids, extra prone to get the virus.
In a typical yr, about half of Individuals get the flu shot. The brand new mathematical fashions predict that the vaccination price would want to rise to about 75% to keep away from the additional hospitalizations. However even a ten% enhance in vaccination charges might scale back hospitalizations by 6% to 46%, relying on what strains are dominant.
Often, the Southern Hemisphere flu season, from February to August, helps present what the Northern Hemisphere can anticipate over the approaching winter. However with strict COVID-19 measures and limits on worldwide journey nonetheless in place in nations like Australia and New Zealand and far of South America, it has been one other file low yr for flu infections, says Ian Barr, PhD, deputy director of the World Well being Group’s Collaborating Heart for Reference and Analysis on Influenza in Melbourne, Australia.
Australia detected solely round 500 instances this yr, in contrast with about 300,000 in a traditional yr, and recorded no hospitalizations or deaths from the flu. New Zealand recorded simply two instances.
“I’ve by no means seen something like this,” Barr says.
In Australia, the delicate flu season led to fewer folks getting their flu shot than common. The speed fell from round 50% to simply 33%, says Barr. “If that occurs within the U.S., the inhabitants shall be much more susceptible as a result of there was nearly no flu for greater than 12 months,” he says.
Each Roberts and Barr say it’s critical that as many individuals as potential get vaccinated through the upcoming flu season, particularly kids who may have nearly no pure immunity to the virus.
“The vaccine is our greatest weapon towards the flu, particularly for probably the most at-risk teams,” says Barr.
Different components of the world had blended outcomes. India noticed a excessive variety of flu instances, whereas neighbouring Sri Lanka had only a few. West Africa additionally noticed fairly a excessive degree of circulating virus. Total, the flu was detected in 45 nations through the Southern Hemisphere season, lower than half of what could be anticipated in a traditional yr, says Barr.
Regardless of the general low numbers, the WHO noticed sufficient within the information to make two adjustments to subsequent yr’s Southern Hemisphere vaccine formulation at its assembly on Sept. 24, after altering simply one of many strains for the Northern Hemisphere vaccine at its assembly final February.
The CDC recommends that everybody 6 months or older get the flu shot, with few exceptions.