Flu Season Could Further Strain Public Health Systems

Registered Nurse Claudina Prince administers a flu shot at a Dekalb County health center in Decatur, Ga., Monday, Feb. 5, 2018.

Registered Nurse Claudina Prince administers a flu shot at a Dekalb County health center in Decatur, Ga., Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. AP Photo/David Goldman

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The symptoms of the flu and coronavirus are similar and experts warn confusion over the two could overburden Covid-19 testing capacity.

The combination of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the start of the cold and flu season in October has the potential to overburden U.S. public health systems, particularly Covid-19 testing capacity, health experts warn.  

The symptoms of influenza and Covid-19 infections are similar, and people infected with the flu may think they have coronavirus and seek out a test, said Dr. Andrew Pekosz, a virologist and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance.

“This may put an increased burden on our Covid-19 testing infrastructure, which has already been a little stretched to the limits,” Pekosz said in a phone call this week with reporters.

The volume of Covid-19 tests across the United States has led to lengthy backlogs at laboratories, which means patients have had to wait days—if not weeks—to get results. In some cases, the long processing time makes the tests essentially useless since the recommended quarantine period after contracting the virus that causes Covid-19 is two weeks. Some states have instituted limits and testing priorities to help address the problems.

There is some evidence that social distancing measures meant to curb the spread of coronavirus could limit the severity of this year’s flu season. In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia, Chile and South Africa all reported low influenza activity during their flu season, according to a report issued this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And influenza infections in the United States in the winter “declined sharply within two weeks of the Covid-19 emergency declaration and widespread implementation of community mitigation measures,” the report states.

But public health experts warn that the potential for a mild flu season does not negate the need for people to get flu vaccines.

Dr. Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, advised that local public health agencies should step up messaging this year around the importance of getting vaccinated.

“It’s really important to personalize messages and not to use a one-size-fits-all approach and that is because people have a lot of different views on vaccines,” Salmon said.

As schools and businesses continue to reopen and people naturally move indoors to congregate during the winter months, health experts warn the people will be interacting more in environments that are prime for the spread of both coronavirus and influenza.

If people continue to take precautions like wearing masks, staying socially distant and frequently washing their hands, it could help reduce the number of infections from both illnesses.

Minimizing the number of flu cases this season will help healthcare professionals be better able to deal with any possible surge in Covid-19 infections that could occur this winter, Pekosz said.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

NEXT STORY: Contact Tracing in Two North Carolina Counties Shows Difficulty of Reaching Patients

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.