Could flu season make a comeback? Health officials say yes

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Flu season is rapidly approaching, and although in 2020-2021 flu season Kentucky saw a 99% drop in cases from a year earlier, it is expected to make a comeback this year, although health officials cannot say how much it will be.


According to figures from the Kentucky Department for Public Health, part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the 2019-2020 flu season had 27,408 confirmed cases in the state, along with 165 deaths.  Six of the fatalities involved those under the age of 18.


However, during the 2020-2021 flu season there were only 186 confirmed cases, a record low for the state.  Two Kentuckians lost their lives directly due to the flu, while two more died from a combination of the flu and COVID-19 complications.  Overall, the total of four is a drop of 96.67% from the 2019-2020 season.


CHFS spokesperson Susan Dunlap noted several COVID-19-related factors contributed to the drop, “including mask-wearing, physical distancing, people staying home, school closures, and viral competition with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention echoed her sentiments. “These changes were attributed to both artifactual changes related to declines in routine health seek for respiratory illness as well as real changes in influenza circulation because of widespread implementation of measures to mitigate transmission of SARS-CoV-2.” 


In other words, masks, social distancing, school closures and closing long-term care facilities to visitors are thought to have contributed.  With some of those restrictions no longer in effect, health officials say a rebound in cases is likely this fall and winter and encourage getting vaccinated.


What some health experts are calling a “Twindemic” leads to the question of whether you need to wait between a flu shot and receiving a COVID vaccination, either an initial dose or a booster dose.


State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack said, “Initially, we didn’t have enough data, so we had people space things out.  But now, you can get more than one vaccination at the same visit, so you can get both the flu shot and the COVID shot at the same time.  There is enough data now, so we can say that.”


Flu vaccines, like other vaccines, cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination.  These antibodies provide protection against infection with circulating influenza viruses.


Seasonal flu vaccines are designed to protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.  During this flu season, all flu vaccines in the United States are “quadrivalent” vaccines, which means they protect against four different strands of the flu virus: an influenza A(H1N1) virus, an influenza A(H3N2) virus, and two influenza B viruses.

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