A year ago at this time, fear was high that the United States would be hit with a “twindemic” of influenza and COVID-19. It never materialized, largely due to the fact that measures taken to protect ourselves from the SARS-CoV-2 virus (social distancing, frequent handwashing, wearing a face cover, etc.) had the unintended benefit of keeping flu activity low. This year, however, with many people vaccinated against COVID-19 and letting other measures slide, we might not get off so easy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, after a slow start, incidence of influenza A(H3N2) has been increasing in recent weeks. It seems to be hitting young adults and children especially hard. While the timing is not out of the ordinary, compared with most recent flu seasons, the trend may be more alarming due to the fact that the world (including the U.S.) continues to grapple with COVID-19, more so since the arrival of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. While that latest variant does not appear to be more severe than previous “versions,” it’s unknown how coinciding diagnoses of flu and COVID-19 will affect risk for poor outcomes. Urgent care providers should bear this in mind when advising patients on the necessity of vaccination against both viruses. The CDC’s FluView page is updated regularly to keep U.S. healthcare professionals current in influenza rates.
Watch Out: After a Slow Start, Flu Activity Is Picking Up—Just in Time for the Omicron Variant