While the world has been heavily focused on COVID-19, flu has disappeared from public view. But it will rebound this year. The flu continues to be a serious threat to public health.
The impact of last flu season
Flu activity throughout the 2020-2021 flu season was abnormally low. In turn, the U.S. reported significantly fewer illnesses from the flu, far less hospitalizations and fewer deaths in comparison to previous years. In fact, the number of flu-related hospitalizations was the lowest on record since this type of data collection began in 2005. For some perspective, the 2019-2020 flu season reported an all-time high pediatric death rate (199 children) compared to the lowest recorded number during the 2020-2021 season (one child). These numbers provide great inspiration to protect your family as best you can.
The CDC believes the protective measures against COVID-19 are the main reason for the reduced influenza cases. Increased in hand-washing, reduced travel, physical distancing, wearing masks and the overall trend of the public staying home were all contributing factors.
Get your flu shot
When combined with flu vaccines, the flu had a much lower impact on the U.S. healthcare system last year than previous years. Americans continued to get vaccinated against the flu during the 2020-2021 flu season, with an estimated 55% of adults getting the flu vaccine, compared to an estimated 48% the year prior. Vaccination is your best defense against both influenza and COVID-19.
As some of these protective measures against COVID-19 are relaxed, just in time for the upcoming 2021-2022 flu season, they will have much less of an impact on the transmission of the flu moving forward. It will be more important this year to get vaccinated against the flu and to do it early.
The CDC recommends anyone over the age of six months gets the flu vaccine, every flu season, which typically begins in mid-October and can last as late as May. Remember that this vaccine takes up to two weeks to be fully effective, so plan your vaccine accordingly.
Lessons from COVID-19 can be applied to flu prevention
COVID-19 has taught us several good habits to keep in place. Given the decrease in flu cases, as well as the decrease in COVID cases, these protective measures are proof of that. But the very best protective measure of all remains vaccination. Be prepared for the upcoming flu season and get your flu shot as soon as it becomes available.