Both Covid and the flu are expected to surge this winter causing a dreaded “twin demic,” experts fear, with some southern states already feeling the early stages of an influenza resurgence.
The flu largely disappeared during the last two years of the pandemic as lockdowns, working from home and the much more transmissible coronavirus limited its ability to spread.
But there are concerns that the seasonal virus will make a deadly comeback this winter after sweeping the southern hemisphere in recent months.
The lack of exposure to the pathogen in the past two years has left the immune systems of many Americans unprepared for the flu, also increasing the risk of a more serious infection among many.
There are already early signs that the flu is making a comeback with big increases in the southern US in recent weeks, with Texas reporting a tripling in weekly cases over the last three weeks.
Dr. Luis Ostrosky, chief of infectious diseases at UTHealth Houston and Memorial Hermann, told DailyMail.com that the current numbers in Texas aren’t typically experienced until the peak of flu season in December.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are also reporting moderate flu activity in Georgia and New Mexico. Florida also reported an unusual spike in the virus over the summer that has since subsided.
Health officials across the country confirm only a few hundred cases each week, though the numbers are significantly underreported. As colder weather pushes more Americans indoors, experts fear the virus will begin to run rampant among an unprepared population.
Judging from previous winters, covid cases are likely to explode this winter as well, with the latter halves of 2020 and 2021 set to see record increases.
Officials say low uptake of the vaccine — just one percent of eligible Americans have received the new Omicron booster — means there’s still a chance of a deadly outbreak of Covid, even with the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. milder.
The virus is felt most in the southern US, with Texas, Georgia and New Mexico each experiencing “moderate” flu circulation, according to the CDC.
Influenza cases have increased slightly in recent weeks, with the CDC reporting 378 and 425 confirmed infections in the previous two weeks, up from 257 infections reported during the last week of August.
“We’re in for a tough flu season this year,” Dr. Ostrosky told DailyMail.com.
‘We haven’t reached the peak yet. We are starting to see the numbers increase very soon.
Experts have urged Americans to get vaccinated against the flu and the new bivalent vaccine before the fall in an effort to limit the double pandemic.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) even recommended that parents give their children two flu shots this year if they have never received the annual flu shot before.
While House Covid response coordinator Dr Ashish Jha said earlier in the month that: “I really think that’s why God gave us two arms, one for the flu shot and one for the flu shot.” against covid”.
Where has the flu gone in the last two years…and when will it return?
The spread of the flu was massively slowed during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic
Covid viral interference combined with mitigation measures such as masking and restrictions on indoor events led to little spread of the virus.
As a result, many have not developed natural immunity to the virus in the last two years and have neglected to receive their annual vaccination.
Experts fear this year’s flu season could be the worst in years after both New Zealand and Australia were hit by the annual nuisance in the southern hemisphere.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, issued a warning about the rampant spread of the flu in the southern hemisphere last month.
Some southern states like Texas, Georgia and New Mexico are already experiencing surges in the virus in September, even before flu season officially begins in October.
Experts are on high alert about the virus making a resurgence in the southern hemisphere, which typically has a flu season that runs from April to October.
Australia suffered its worst flu season in half a decade this year, with peak case rates reaching heights three times higher than usual.
It also hit earlier this year, with the first flu outbreak in the island nation in March.
In New Zealand, this year’s case numbers returned to pre-pandemic normality after two years of sharp declines.
“Influenza, as we have all experienced for many years, can be a serious illness, especially when you have a bad season.”
This is not the first warning of a double pandemic issued by US officials. Many feared that the flu might return in 2021 after being almost non-existent in 2020. However, this was not the case.
However, at the end of September, a rebound in the common flu is already beginning to be felt. The CDC reported 378 cases for the week ending September 23 and 425 the week before. Only 257 cases were recorded during the last full week of August, which ended on August 26.
These figures are likely to be a significant underreporting, as many will outgrow mild cases at home without seeking medical care and never get a confirmed positive test as a result.
Hospitalizations caused by the flu, while rare, occur primarily among the elderly and children under the age of four, the groups that generally face the greatest risk from the virus.
The beginning of a flu wave could already be breaking out in the US South.
Weekly reported cases have been rising in Texas in recent weeks, with the state reporting 186 infections for the week ending Sept. 17.
This is more than double the 73 cases reported during the week ending September 3, and nearly five times the 40 cases recorded on August 20.
Dr. Ostrosky told DailyMail.com that these numbers are usually not reached until December, the peak of flu season.
He fears that the figures will continue to rise in the coming months.
Dr. Ostrosky says that while the twin may not have been produced in previous years, early data shows this will be the year it materializes.
Less viral interference from Covid, the absence of pandemic mitigation measures, and the lack of immunity in the population after little spread of the virus last year and low vaccination coverage have left Americans vulnerable to the flu this year.
As of noon Thursday, the CDC also considers neighboring New Mexico and Georgia to have “moderate” flu activity.
Florida also recorded a unusual surge of the annual virus during the summer, although it receded rapidly.
*DR* Ostrosky says the southern US is generally in sync with the rest of the US when it comes to flu, and he’s not sure why it’s rising in the region faster than in the US. others.
Washington DC is experiencing ‘very high’ flu circulation, the CDC reports, the worst anywhere in the country. CAN WE HAVE DC ON TOP AS WELL THEN?
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said NPR: ‘This very well could be the year we see a twin.
‘That is, we have an increase in COVID and simultaneously an increase in influenza. We could have both affect our population at the same time.
Dr. Schaffner fears this surge in flu, combined with the usual jump in Covid cases associated with colder weather months, could spell trouble for the United States.
“If we have a severe influenza season, and if omicron variants continue to cause mostly mild illness, next winter could be a much worse flu season than Covid,” he said.
Officials are also reacting to these fears. The AAP issued an advisory earlier this month that children between the ages of six months and eight years who have received fewer than two flu shots in their lifetime should double up on vaccinations this time.
The two injections should be received approximately one month apart from each other.
The AAP’s recommendations are not entirely without precedent. In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told parents to give their children a double flu shot if they had not previously received vaccinations.
The guidance has been around ever since, but has been largely ignored and not announced every year.
Omicron-tailored Covid boosters, set to prevent infection from the highly transmissive strain, have been pushed by US officials in an effort to curb the pandemic ahead of the cold-weather months as well.
Ostrosky told DailyMail.com that a person who has received an Omicron booster and a flu shot should feel safe heading into the double pandemic season.