The flu season was mild last year, thanks to great distance to social distance and other measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But with some of these public health regulations easing and a flattening of coronavirus cases associated with the highly contagious Delta variant, health experts are concerned that a worrying flu season may be ahead, and they are urging people to take precautions now.
“Because we did not have a lot of flu in circulation last year, I would say that none of us benefit from any kind of immunity that we might have developed by having the flu,” said LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. recently. “So everyone is a little worried about having a tough flu season this year.”
A year ago, most schools were closed and many people were still at home. The reopening of classrooms is one reason why officials say a flu resurgence is possible.
“Children are really good spreaders,” Ferrer said.
Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, an Orange County health officer, urged parents and their children to get flu shots before Halloween.
“We want our kids vaccinated against the flu … before they go out and trick-or-treat,” Chinsio-Kwong said at a recent briefing.
In some parts of California, influenza cases have already increased compared to recent years.
San Diego County has already reported 195 laboratory-confirmed flu cases this season. This is 34% higher than the average for this time period over the last five years.
And although the total number of flu cases is low, it is still quite early in the season, which typically peaks between December and February and can last through May. Over the past five years, San Diego County has confirmed through testing an average of about 12,000 flu cases a year.
Health officials say that given the pace of new flu cases, there is all the more reason to get a flu shot. Influenza can result in 12,000 to 52,000 deaths annually in the United States.
“Get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, a San Diego County deputy health officer, in a announcement. “Getting a flu shot is especially important as COVID-19 is still having a negative impact on our society.”
“We need as many people as possible to be vaccinated against influenza,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently orientation. “CDC flu experts are concerned that declining population-level immunity to seasonal flu could put us at risk for a potentially serious flu season this year.”
Health officials have traditionally struggled to persuade most adults to get their flu shot – which is available as an injection or as a nasal spray – but they recently noticed an increase. CDC discretion that 50% to 55% of adults nationwide received the flu vaccine in the 2020-21 season; it was better than the 48% of adults the previous season.
“We had higher flu vaccinations last year, and we hope that applies this year as well,” Ferrer said.
Nevertheless, the flu vaccinations are lower than for the COVID-19 vaccine. Nationwide, 68% of adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as are more than 71% of California adults.
Influenza vaccines are recommended for all 6 months and older. Those at particular risk of influenza complications are older, those with chronic health conditions and children, especially those younger than 5.
It takes approx. two weeks after administration of influenza shot to offer full protection.
And people can get the flu and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, Walensky said.
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