Health Experts Fear Bounce-Back Flu Season
An unintended silver lining from the COVID-19 pandemic last year was a mild flu season — due largely to the dramatic decrease in social gatherings and general social distancing among the public. The lack of potential exposure, however, has health experts concerned about a rampant bounce-back in cases for the upcoming 2021-2022 flu season, CNBC reports.
The eventual severity of the upcoming influenza season hangs on several factors, including people’s willingness to maintain personal hygiene habits, virus evolution and natural immunity buildup, notes Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. The hope is people have gained more acceptance overall to vaccinations and continue to embrace infection control practices in the case that the season does indeed turn into a severe one.
While predictions for the upcoming season are difficult, the CDC anticipates numbers closer to pre-pandemic levels as social distancing restrictions continue to be relaxed or lifted entirely. Lynette Brammer, team lead of the CDC’s Domestic Influenza Surveillance Team says the outlier of last year’s low cases means that immunity among adults will be contingent on exposure to the influenza virus from 2 years ago or later.
Brammer notes positive case rates for the flu hovered between 26 and 30 percent from 2016-2019 prior to dropping to below 0.5 percent for the entirety of typical flu season in 2020.
Regardless of how the upcoming season turns out, Brammer encourages public vaccination and to be especially mindful of younger children who have lower immunity to the influenza virus than adults. These tips for keeping facilities clean and safe from the flu apply to any year or severity.