What happens after a year without the flu?

https://mailchi.mp/85f08f5211a4/the-weekly-gist-february-5-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

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Doctors and scientists have been relieved that the dreaded “twindemic”—the usual winter spike of seasonal influenza superimposed on the COVID pandemic—did not materialize.

In fact, flu cases are at one of the lowest levels ever recorded, with just 155 flu-related hospitalizations this season (compared to over 490K in 2019). A new piece in the Atlantic looks at the long-term ramifications of a year without the flu. 

Public health measures like masking and handwashing have surely lowered flu transmission, but scientists remain uncertain why flu cases have flatlined as COVID-19, which spreads via the same mechanisms, surged.

Children are a much greater vector for influenza, and reduced mingling in schools and childcare likely slowed spread. Perhaps the shutdown in travel slowed the viruses’ ability to hop a ride from continent to continent, and the cancellation of gatherings further dampened transmission.

Nor are scientists sure what to expect next year. Optimists hope that record-low levels of flu could take a strain out of circulation. But others warn that flu could return with a vengeance, as the virus continues to mutate while population immunity declines. 

Researchers developing next year’s vaccines, meanwhile, face a lack of data on what strains and mutations to target—although many hope the mRNA technologies that proved effective for COVID will enable more agile flu vaccine development in the future. 

Regardless, renewed vigilance in flu prevention and vaccination next fall will be essential, as a COVID-fatigued population will be inclined to breathe a sigh of relief as the current pandemic comes under control.

The Flu Shot

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“Last night I shared a post on Facebook that said, ‘Hey, the flu shot isn’t about you.’ Sitting here, soaking up every ounce of caffeine before my night shift, I figured I should elaborate.

The flu shot is for Influenza, a severe respiratory illness that can lead to death. Have you ever had it? I have, and it’s awful. You spike fevers, every bone and muscle in your body aches, and no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to catch your breath.

You get the flu shot not always for you, but for those around you. For the grandparents, whose bodies are not what they used to be, and they just can’t kick an illness in the butt like when they were young.

For the 30 year old, with HIV or AIDS, who has a weakened immune system.

For the 25-year-old mother of 3 who has cancer. She has absolutely zero immune system because of chemotherapy.

For the newborn baby who was just welcomed into the world, and isn’t quite strong enough to fight off infections on his own.

For the nurses and doctors that take care of you. If they get sick, they can’t go to work and take care of the countless patients that need them.

For the 50-year-old husband who needs a medication for his chronic illness, and that medication also weakens his immune system.

For the pregnant mom that has been trying to get pregnant for years, and now she’s trying to stay healthy for her unborn baby.

For the single dad who can’t take any more sick days and needs to provide for his kids.

For the 7-year-old boy that just wants to play with his friends. But he has a disease that puts him at a higher risk for infection, so he has to stay inside.

The flu shot is NOT always about you. It’s about protecting those around you, who cannot always protect themselves. I have been in the room as a patient has passed away, because of influenza. I have watched patients struggle to breathe, because of influenza. I have busted my butt to provide tylenol, warm blankets, nebulizers, etc. to keep that patient comfortable and fighting a terrible respiratory infection.

Herd immunity is a thing.

Influenza killing people is a thing.

You getting the flu shot, should be a thing.

Credit: Nurse Amanda Catherine Bitz

U.S. Still in First Wave of COVID-19, Fauci Says

https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200925/us-still-in-first-wave-of-covid-19-fauci-says

US still in first Covid-19 wave and should be prepared for 'challenge' of  fall and winter, Fauci says

Anthony Fauci, MD, says talk about a second wave of the coronavirus is premature because the United States is still dealing with the first one.

The idea of a second wave is based on the 1918 flu pandemic, when many cases were seen in the spring, he says. The spring cases “literally disappeared” and were followed by a spike in flu cases in the fall, he told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, MD, on Thursday in an online conversation organized by Emory University.

“Rather than say, ‘A second wave,’ why don’t we say, ‘Are we prepared for the challenge of the fall and the winter?’” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force.

Flu shots are an important measure to help the U.S. get through the winter, he said.

He and other health care professionals have observed that the Southern Hemisphere has had a very light flu season, probably because measures to curb the coronavirus, such as social distancing and mask-wearing, have limited the spread of the flu.

“If we listen to the public health measures, not only would we diminish the effect of COVID-19, we might get away with a very, very light flu season if we combine that with getting the flu vaccine,” Fauci said.

In a separate interview, he said the arrival of the coronavirus vaccine will not stop the need for tried-and-true measures such as mask-wearing, hand-washing, and social distancing.

In a Facebook Live conversation with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Fauci said the coronavirus vaccine will not be 100% effective and won’t be taken by the entire population. That means the virus could still spread.

“So when a vaccine comes, we look at it as an important tool to supplement the public health measures that we do,” he said. “It will allow us to more quickly and with less stringency get back to some degree of normal. But it is not going to eliminate the need to be prudent and careful with our public health measures.”

Fauci said that vaccinating 75% to 80% of the population “would be a really good accomplishment.” He expects 700 million doses to be produced by the end of this year or early 2021.

 

 

 

 

Getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever because of COVID-19

https://theconversation.com/getting-a-flu-shot-this-year-is-more-important-than-ever-because-of-covid-19-144034?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20August%2019%202020%20-%201707616486&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20August%2019%202020%20-%201707616486+Version+A+CID_ee5f6e1a20d69ba14ac919d3b2025202&utm_source=campaign_monitor_us&utm_term=Getting%20a%20flu%20shot%20this%20year%20is%20more%20important%20than%20ever%20because%20of%20COVID-19

Flu shot more important than ever during COVID-19 pandemic, expert ...

With the coronavirus still spreading widely, it’s time to start thinking seriously about influenza, which typically spreads in fall and winter. A major flu outbreak would not only overwhelm hospitals this fall and winter, but also likely overwhelm a person who might contract both at once.

Doctors have no way of knowing yet what the effect of a dual diagnosis might be on a person’s body, but they do know the havoc that the flu alone can do to a person’s body. And, we know the U.S. death toll of COVID-19 as of Aug. 17, 2020 was 170,000, and doctors are learning more each day about the effects of the disease on the body. Public health officials in the U.S. are therefore urging people to get the flu vaccine, which is already being shipped in many areas to be ready for September vaccinations.

Flu cases are expected to start increasing early in October and could last late into May. This makes September and early October the ideal time to get your flu shot.

But there’s reason to be concerned that flu vaccination rates could be lower this year than in past years, even though the risk of getting seriously ill may be higher because of widespread circulation of the coronavirus.

In an effort to avoid getting sick, millions of Americans avoided seeing their health care provider the past few months. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders have resulted in a decreased use of routine medical preventive services such as vaccinations. Many employers that often provide the flu shot at no cost to employees are allowing employees to work from home, potentially limiting the number of people who will get the flu shot at their jobs.

As a health care professional, I urge everyone to get the flu vaccine in September. Please do not wait for flu cases to start to peak. The flu vaccine takes up to two weeks to reach peak effectiveness, so getting the vaccine in September will help provide the best protection as the flu increases in October and later in the season.

A lifesaver in previous years, but more so now

Both COVID-19 and the flu are contagious respiratory illness that present with similar symptoms. Both viruses can impact the elderly and those with certain chronic conditions, such as heart and lung disease, the hardest.

Data on flu vaccination rates from 2018-2019 show that only 49% of Americans six months of age and older received the flu vaccine. The vaccine’s effectiveness varies each season, with early data from the 2019-2020 flu season indicating a vaccine effectiveness rate of 50% overall, and 55% in youth.

While some may think this effectiveness rate is low, the flu vaccine remains the single best way to prevent the flu and related complications. For example, during the 2018-2019 flu season, flu vaccination was estimated to prevent 4.4 million flu illnesses, 58,000 flu hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths. Early data from the 2019-2020 flu season estimates there were 39-56 million flu illnesses, 18-26 million flu-related medical visits, 410-740,000 hospitalizations and up to 62,000 deaths. Much of this disease burden is preventable from higher flu vaccination rates.

It is now quite apparent that COVID-19 will still be circulating during flu season, which makes getting a flu vaccine more important than ever. As schools, our communities and our economy continue to reopen, it is vital to get the flu vaccine for personal, family and community protection.

A flu camp in Lawrence, Maine during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Nurses and doctors tried desperate measures to stop the spread of the disease, which ultimately killed more than 675,000 people in the U.S. alone. Bettmann/Getty Images

Severe cases of both COVID-19 and the flu require the same lifesaving medical equipment. This highlights the importance of getting the flu vaccine for not only your own personal health but also the health of your community. Receiving the flu vaccine will help reduce the burden of respiratory illness on our already very overstretched health care system. By increasing flu vaccination rates, we can reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population and hence lower the resulting burden on the health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because flu vaccination protects against one of these respiratory illnesses, the CDC recommends everyone (with few exceptions) six months of age and older get an annual flu vaccine. While the flu vaccine will not protect you against COVID-19, the flu vaccine will reduce your risk of developing the flu as well as reduce your risks of flu-related complications including hospitalization and even death.

While it may seem like there is so much out of our control during this pandemic, getting the flu vaccine, practicing proper hand washing, social distancing and wearing face coverings are within our control and will protect not only you but also your family and community.

If you are not getting the flu vaccine from your employer, think about alternative sources now. Vaccines should be available in most areas by Sept. 1.

  • Call you doctor’s office to ask how you can get a flu shot.
  • Call your local public health department.
  • Consider getting a vaccine while you are grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions.

Mainly, make sure you take advantage of this potentially lifesaving vaccine. Get it on your calendar for early September now. And remember, the flu shot cannot give you the flu.