The days are decidedly shorter and as we head into the cooler months, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges everyone 6 months and older to get an annual flu vaccine to avoid a surge in cases this season. With children returning to classrooms, and more people unmasking, gathering indoors, and traveling, researchers are concerned that we could see a “twindemic” emerging this winter.
According to a recent article in The Conversation, following the drop in influenza cases last year, thanks to social distancing, hand washing, and masking, this winter as restrictions ease there could be a spike in seasonal flu cases. Combined with the spread of the highly infectious COVID-19 delta variant, health care systems could be overwhelmed if people don’t take precautions and get the recommended immunizations for their age and risk group.
Along with vaccines, individual behaviors can also influence the 2021-22 flu season and prevent many illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths. Young children who have had lower exposure to the flu in previous seasons and haven’t developed immunity are at a higher risk and grandchildren may spread influenza to grandparents and other elderly adults. But by getting vaccinated and continuing to wear masks indoors when social distancing is not possible, a dramatic rise in flu and COVID cases can be avoided.
Adults over the age of 65 are at higher risk for developing serious complications from influenza infection. It is recommended that all people receive a flu vaccine by the end of October and seniors should get a flu shot, not a nasal spray vaccine. The high-dose vaccine may provide a stronger immune response for older adults – talk with your doctor to see if the Fluzone High-Dose or adjuvanted flu vaccine is appropriate for you.
As always, stay home if you feel unwell, continue to mask in close contact with those outside your household, cover coughs and wash hands frequently.