Influenza cases down from last year in the US but COVID-19 increases the risks

In the Northern Hemisphere, flu season is beginning in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, however, influenza-like activity remains low in the US, with 40% fewer cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) than in the same time last year. Nonetheless, with healthcare resources stretched thin as a result of the pandemic, the risk of a bad flu season should not be underestimated, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Topias Lemetyinen, Managing Epidemiologist at GlobalData, comments: “COVID-19 may present in similar fashion to ILI with equally mild to severe symptoms and discerning between the two will be essential in order to best provide adequate care and to correctly anticipate the course of disease. It is also possible to have a co-infection of influenza and COVID-19.”

Despite the similarities of these two illnesses, COVID-19 tends to spread with more ease and causes more serious illness than the flu. Furthermore, vaccination for influenza is widely available, but seasonal efficacy varies.

With the current state of the pandemic and the flu season beginning, every effort should be made to vaccinate against the flu and continue with pandemic containment measures.

Lemetyinen adds: “Given the nature of COVID-19 and influenza, mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing may all contribute to minimizing influenza spread. Continued monitoring of both diseases will remain a top priority to best indicate areas of the country that may be most at risk.”

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