As reported in JUCM News previously, mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing through much of the COVID-19 pandemic not only saved lives with regard to that virus, but had the side benefit of protecting the public against influenza. Rates of flu infection, hospitalization, and death were lower than they’ve been in years during the 2020-21 season. The fear among public health officials and experts now is that flu rates could come back with a vengeance once those protective practices fade away. Vanderbilt University infectious disease specialist William Schaffner, MD told Nashville’s CBS affiliate that taking protective measures may be as important once flu season begins as it was last spring in some situations. Wearing a mask during air travel and in large public gatherings, and staying home when you’re not feeling well, for example, could have the same effect next season as it did during the last one—especially in saving lives. The missing piece of that equation, of course, is vaccination. Be sure you have ample influenza testing and vaccination supplies early on, and remind patients that COVID-19 is not going to be eradicated anytime soon. Protection against the flu will continue to be essential in continuing to dodge the “twindemic” that never came earlier this year.
It’s Not Too Early to Start Looking at the Next Flu Season—and It’s Not a Pretty Picture