Cases of influenza for the 2021–21 season were roughly 1% of what we’ve seen in the U.S. over the past few years (just 2,000 cases between September 2020 and April 2021, vs the typical 200,000-plus), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Much of the credit is being given to precautions taken because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While wearing masks, ratcheting up our attention to everyday hygiene, and social distancing helped us ward of a “twindemic” that probably would have resulted in multiples of more deaths than we’ve experienced due to COVID-19, there’s now a question of whether there will be long-term positive or negative effect of an essentially nonexistent flu season this year. According to an article just published by The New York Times, quoting several federal health officials and academics, it’s possible that the next prevalent strain of influenza could be weaker than those we’ve seen in the past due to missing a season in its evolution. On the other hand, there’s the risk that the public’s relative immunity to flu could wane due to lack of exposure. For urgent care, the message is to prepare for the next flu season as we would any other year, with plans to conduct vaccine clinics, educate patients on the best ways to avoid flu—especially since we don’t know where we’ll be with COVID-19 by autumn—and ensuring your team takes those same steps.
We Dodged a Bullet with the ’20-’21 Flu Season—but What Happens When the Next One Hits?