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Flu Season Returns: With COVID, a Possible ‘Twindemic'

October 10, 2021

The 2020-21 flu season in Connecticut was virtually nonexistent, thanks to COVID-related lockdowns that isolated people, masking protocols and social distancing. The same will not be true for 2021.

In the United States, most flu activity starts in October and ends in May. Peak flu activity happens between December and March. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone 6 months old and up should get an influenza (flu) vaccine every season with rare exceptions. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has made this recommendation since the 2010-2011 influenza season.

"It's going to be worse than last year," said Dr. Ulysses Wu, Hartford HealthCare's System Director of Infection Disease and Chief Epidemiologist. "But we didn't have any flu last year."

You should get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Talk to your primary care physician about scheduling a visit. You can also get vaccinated at the nearest Hartford HealthCareGoHealth Urgent Care location.

"You definitely need to get the flu vaccine because masking and social distancing are not perfect," Dr. Wu said. With Connecticut's high COVID vaccination rates, social distancing and masking have fallen by the wayside for many, putting them back at risk for catching other viruses.

"The COVID vaccine will not protect you against the flu," Dr, Wu said.

If you have yet to get a COVID shot, the CDC is now saying you can receive both flu and COVID vaccines at the same time. Previously, the CDC recommended that people receive their COVID-19 vaccinations alone and schedule any other vaccinations at least two weeks before or after their COVID-19 immunization.

Healthcare providers are concerned that a resurgence of the flu will strain hospital Emergency Departments and clinics that are already stretched thin by the COVID Delta variant, what is referred to as a "twindemic."

On the flip side, the flu vaccine might help you if you do come down with COVID, according to an analysis of almost 75,000 COVID-19 patient health records by researchers at the University of Miami.

The COVID-19 patients who had not received a flu shot were 45 percent to 58 percent more likely to have a stroke, about 40 percent more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis and 36 percent to 45 percent more likely to have sepsis, according to the findings presented at an online meeting of the European society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

Fewer COVID-19 patients who had received a flu shot were admitted to hospital emergency departments and intensive care units. It's possible, the study's authors noted, that patients who had received a flu vaccine were in better health.


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