Global efforts to contain the coronavirus have resulted in fewer cases of influenza in countries now in the midst of winter. Experts say that what occurs in the Southern Hemisphere typically predicts what the U.S. will experience when winter arrives.
According to NBC News, experts have been worried that a double whammy of battling COVID-19 along with the seasonal flu could overwhelm the healthcare system. But efforts made to curb the spread of the coronavirus may positively affect our flu season.
“If we look at what they’ve been seeing in Australia, and we use the Southern Hemisphere to predict what our next season is gong to be, they’ve had a quieter flu season,” Kristin Englund, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic told NBC News. “We think it’s because people have been using measures to prevent COVID-19.”
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that during the 2019-2020 U.S. flu season, there were as many as 56 million cases of the flu, requiring up to 740,000 hospitalizations. The flu may have caused the deaths of 62,000 Americans.
Englund recommended that people get the flu shot but said it’s best to wait until October.
“If people get the flu vaccine now, protection may not extend throughout the entire flu season,” she said, according to NBC News. Because flu symptoms mimic those of COVID-19, experts said that it may be difficult to tell them apart and doctors will likely test for both illnesses using the same samples.
According to Medical News Today, the incubation period for COVID-19 is between one and 14 days, while for the flu, it’s between one and four days. Both can cause pneumonia, but according to the World Health Organization, the mortality rate of COVID-19 is much higher than that of the flu.
The main message to help protect you and your loved ones from either illness is to continue wearing masks, washing your hands and avoiding large gatherings, experts told NBC.
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