Experts say the generalized influenza virus is very likely to return this year. However, they say its severity is difficult to predict, as it likely depends on how Ohioans prepare and react.
Dr. Bill Miller, senior associate dean for research and professor of epidemiology at the Ohio State University School of Public Health, said there may be many risk factors driving the increasing decline in COVID-19 infections, with the entry of the influenza season.
In 2020, the beginning of this season was a great risk due to the number of infections, so they had to implement masking and mandatory social distancing measures to be able to combat both diseases. The good news is that these measures produced excellent results, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last season, about 122 flu-related hospitalizations were reported, compared with 11,005 the previous season, according to the Ohio Department of Health. In the 2020 and 2021 seasons, no pediatric deaths have been reported in Ohio, while data shows that five were reported the previous season.
In the United States, 0.2% of respiratory samples analyzed by clinical laboratories last influenza season (among 1,675 of 818,939 samples taken), tested positive for the influenza virus. By comparison, during the last three seasons before the COVID-19 pandemic, the proportion of samples that tested positive for the flu peaked between 26.2% and 30.3%, according to the CDC.
Miller said: “With less natural immunity in the community because fewer people were exposed to the flu last season, flu cases are likely to rebound dramatically this year. It somehow sets us up for a raise this year. I think a significant return of the flu this year is a real possibility. “
There are currently no mask requirements against COVID-19 despite flu season getting closer and closer. Miller said: “Unless they are relocated to individual communities as they have been in Columbus and various suburbs of Greater Columbus, they could allow the flu to spread rampant.”
Typically, US epidemiologists are tasked with tracking the flu from the eastern side of the world to assess how it will develop in the US.
It’s impossible to be absolutely certain, but Miller said respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) may be a good model for the flu this year. RSV is a disease that normally causes the same symptoms as the common flu, but it is extremely dangerous for children, babies, and the elderly, so much so that it can lead to bronchitis and pneumonia.