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Health Experts Warn this Flu Season Could Be ‘Miserable’

The potential combination of influenza, Covid-19, and other circulating viruses may be too much for hospitals to handle this winter. Health officials are urging people to get their flu shots now, in an attempt to prevent further strain on hospitals already overwhelmed by Covid-19 and other viruses. The push to get flu shots as soon as possible comes as two studies warn that this flu season could be a miserable one.

US guidelines call for annual flu shots for everyone 6 months and older, but determining the best time to get vaccinated can be complicated. It is notoriously difficult to predict what will happen in any flu season. But a combination of factors could make this winter particularly tough, experts said. Children are back in school, often in communities that have eased up on mask mandates and physical distancing measures. And since flu was minimal to nonexistent last year, people were not exposed to the virus, potentially undermining the protection they’d normally have.

In other words, the dramatic decrease in flu cases last year has the potential to dramatically increase cases this year. On average, about 200,000 people are hospitalized with the flu each year, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The team conducting one of the studies calculated that the 2021-22 flu season could result in as many as 600,000 such hospitalizations. This in concert with the overwhelming number of hospitalizations for the Coronavirus as well as other emergent patients is additional stress that may lead to turning sick patients away from already crowded hospitals.

That’s the worst-case scenario if there is an extremely contagious flu strain, coupled with low vaccination rates. Fortunately, at this point, there are no new or worrisome flu variants on the horizon. But given that scenario, the models suggested that 75 percent of Americans would need to get the flu shot to avoid additional hospitalizations. In general, just about half of the U.S. population gets the flu vaccination annually.

 



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