What Happens this Fall When Influenza Meets Covid-19?
Last updated 10/11/2020 at 12:08pm | View PDF
We at The Good Life were wondering what changes to expect with the COVID-19 epidemic when flu season begins. Fortunately, Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught was able to answer our questions.
1.) What type of influenza is expected this year and when will flu vaccinations be available?
Most of the flu strains chosen for the upcoming season's vaccine have been updated. Each vaccine will offer protection against either three or four different strains, two influenza A and one influenza B, or two A and two B. It is very hard to predict from year to year which flu strain will predominate.
Sometimes looking at the activity in the southern hemisphere can help predict, but this year the flu rates are very low in the southern hemisphere so it may not offer much information.
2.) How is the COVID-19 pandemic expected to affect the coming flu season? (Will there be fewer cases because many people are staying home?)
If social distancing, hand washing, and masking are widely practiced, we may see a milder flu season this year. That is what seems to be happening right now in the southern hemisphere, which is in their flu season.
However, as things open up and students return to school, flu transmission will likely increase, so it really will depend on people's behavior, how many people get the flu vaccine, and if there is a strain that doesn't match the vaccine very well.
3.) Can COVID-19 combine with influenza to make it more dangerous – especially to seniors?
Dual infections are a definite cause for concern. Once flu season starts, someone with influenza-like symptoms may need to be tested for both viruses – we expect there will be tests available that will detect both viruses at the same time.
Since seniors are at higher risk for both influenza and COVID-19, we would expect they would also be at high risk if they get a dual infection. This is why it will be very important for everyone to get a flu vaccine this year.
It's important to note, there is also a stress on the hospitals and outpatient offices for people who are presenting with illness that may be either flu or COVID, and need evaluation.
Both illnesses can lead to hospitalization and potential need for ICU care which may lead to overwhelming the capacity of the capacity of our hospitals. The influenza vaccine, social distancing and face coverings all remain very important.
Those interested in comparing the flu and COVID-19 can visit the CDC's website offering a detailed comparison of symptoms, transmission, duration etc .: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm