July 8, 2021: -Mass vaccination campaigns are being rolled out across the developed world. However, many countries still contend with surges in coronavirus infections and new strains, like the highly infectious delta variant. And health experts warn the public that there could be a brutal flu season ahead too.
“There is much uncertainty about the 2021-2022 influenza season,” epidemiologist Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas Covid-19 Modeling Consortium, told CNBC.
“Regarding Covid, when a person recovers from a seasonal influenza infection, they retain a level of immunity that keeps protecting them against future infection. Since our Covid mitigation measures prevented influenza transmission in the previous year, there are not a whole lot of people who were infected recently,” said Lauren.
“So we may enter the flu season with a higher level of susceptibility than the usual one, which could exacerbate the risks,” she added.
Whether or not the flu season turns out to be more severe this year could depend both on the evolution of the virus and decisions made at a personal level, Ancel Meyers believes.
“As we have learned from the previous two years of the coronavirus pandemic, the decisions made by the individuals and communities can have a huge effect on the fate of an outbreak. We should do our part to prevent a catastrophic flu season. So we should get vaccinated early this fall and taking sensible precautions before the virus starts spreading widely,” she said.
“Our experience with Covid may lead to behavior changes that work in our favor. People may be willing even more to take influenza vaccines and to wear face masks or take other precautions to prevent transmission in the peak of the season.”
Flu figures from the U.S. and England indicate that flu illnesses dropped during the pandemic mainly due to the social-distancing measures helping stop transmission.
In the flu season of 2019-2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted that influenza and pneumonia were associated with 38 million illnesses, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths. The CDC stressed that the figures were estimate.