Twindemic? Vermont doctors say more seasonal flu cases possible this year

Vermont

Health leaders in Vermont don’t have a crystal ball to forecast this year’s flu season. They say only time will tell as COVID-19 remains prevalent and the two illnesses collide.

“We think that the decreased mask wearing might open the door to more flu this year, than compared to last year,” Dr. Tim Lahey, infectious disease physician at UVM said.

Dr. Lahey says it’s no secret fewer Vermonters are wearing masks. This time last year, mask mandates were in place and there were no vaccine appointments in site. Lahey said that because preventive measures were at a high, flu activity remained low.

“Last year as an infectious diseases physician, I did not see one case of influenza,” Lahey said. “And this was the experience around the world, we think, because so many people were wearing masks and doing social distancing that influenza didn’t happen at the same time as we were preventing COVID-19.”

Is it safe to get the influenza vaccine if you’re also considering a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or due for a booster? Dr. Mark Levine said, Vermont’s health commissioner, says it’s fine to get both.

“Getting them together has the advantage of one stop shopping and you might forget about it if you decide to delay it,” Dr. Mark Levine said. “The month of October is the time we would love to see everyone get the flu shot.”

Levine says this year’s shot protects against two strains of influenza A and two strains of influenza B. He noted Australia’s flu season has already come and gone, since seasons are reversed, and “they did not have that big resurgence of flu this year which has been a little comforting for me to hear,” he said.

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