HARTFORD, Conn. — Health experts are warning of what could be a ‘twindemic’ this year, as flu season approaches during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doctors that FOX61 spoke with say the last flu season was mild because people were limiting social gatherings and wearing masks.
However, as coronavirus cases continue to drop and people scale back on these protocols, there’s concern that more people will catch the flu this year than last year.
“There is no doubt that this year the flu season will be worse than last year, but that’s because last year was so good. There were very little cases,” Dr. Ulysses Wu, chief epidemiologist and system director of infectious diseases for Hartford HealthCare, said.
Wu anticipates flu cases will have a similar timeline as previous years with sporadic cases through October, with more showing up in November and December, before a peak in February.
But, he expects the flu could affect more people this year than last year. The two main reasons: flu shot hesitancy and people not wearing masks as much.
“There are some masking mandates, but for the most part, there’s not mandated masking and so because of that, this is a respiratory transmitted disease and by science alone, when you take away a barrier, you’re going to have more cases of influenza,” Wu added.
As health care providers keep an eye on both viruses, there are some steps you can take to stay safe this flu season.
“Vaccination is still the primary way to prevent that and I’d encourage everyone including kids to go out and get that flu shot this year, that’s one really important step for prevention,” Dr. David Banach, with the Infectious Diseases Department at UConn Health, said. “The masks provide that higher level of protection so in crowded indoor environments, that can be helpful as well.”
Doctors we spoke with are also recommending masking up for holiday gatherings this year, along with getting vaccinated and having outdoor get-togethers.
“I would love to tell everybody to go to vaccinated-only parties at Halloween and Thanksgiving, but I know that’s not going to happen, so if you are worried, wear a mask or stay away from people," Wu said. "6 feet preferably or even outdoors would be even better because outdoor transmission is a lot less than indoor transmission."
If you have flu-like symptoms, Dr. Wu recommends getting tested for both viruses.
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