(AscendHealthy.com) – Last year’s influenza season was nearly nonexistent, according to the CDC. Experts can only speculate why the infection rates were so low, but they don’t expect the trend to continue forever. In fact, we may see the opposite effect in the coming season.
The snapback could be severe, and with COVID-19 showing no signs of slowing down, we could be facing the worst collective wave in the months to come. Here’s what everyone should know about this upcoming flu season and how to stay as safe as possible.
COVID-19 and the Flu
No one can say for sure why last flu season was so mild, but a recent CNN report cites that the pandemic likely played a role. First and foremost, safety measures to control the coronavirus’ spread may have reduced influenza transmission alongside it. Second, the flu virus may have had to compete with SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, with the coronavirus just happening to win out. It’s impossible to predict whether anything will change this coming year, for better or for worse, but we need to be aware of the potential dangers.
Both illnesses can present in similar ways, says MedicalNewsToday, and while COVID-19 has a higher fatality rate, either can lead to pneumonia in susceptible people. The overlap in symptoms can be significant, so differentiating between the two diseases may be difficult. A COVID-19 test is the only way to know for sure, but experiencing respiratory distress in the face of any lung infection merits a visit to the nearest hospital.
Rough Sailing Ahead
Influenza can vary dramatically from year to year. Because the infection stems from multiple variants and constantly mutates, there’s no predicting which form will hit next. We don’t know what will change between last season’s dominant strains and the next, and a small difference could have unexpected impacts. This upcoming flu season could be devastating under just the right conditions, especially because so few of us fought influenza last year.
And we may need to brace ourselves for an even bigger threat: the possibility that COVID-19 and the flu might coevolve to create a new superbug. Viruses sometimes exchange genetic information. Coinfections of the two illnesses have been rare so far, only accounting for 0.54% of known cases, but they could eventually leave us with a mutated virus that’s stronger, deadlier and more resistant to treatment efforts than anything we’ve ever seen.
We may need to take multiple measures to protect ourselves from the upcoming assault. Masks are an important safeguard — but only when everyone participates, and not all of us can count on compliance in our areas. According to a recent New York Times report, masking is only one component to controlling the problem, and other efforts, such as social distancing and handwashing, probably have played the biggest roles so far in reducing community influenza transmission.
We can keep our hands away from facial areas and eyes and avoid visibly sick people as additional precautions. We can also tip the scales in our favor by boosting our immune systems with adequate sleep, healthy eating habits and regular exercise.
Flu season is just around the corner, and we can’t be sure what we’ll find when we get there. Regardless of the dominant infection this winter, preparation and caution are key to keeping the risks as low as possible.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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