The arrival of autumn also heralds the arrival of another season: Cold and flu season is rapidly approaching. And unfortunately, experts predict this year’s cold and flu season to be worse than usual. But why?
We saw almost no flu last year. While 2020 will always be remembered as the year of Covid, we saw virtually zero flu last year. Only 0.2 percent of flu tests were positive last year, compared with 26 to 30 percent during most other years. It is possible that Covid precautions also helped to prevent transmission of flu last year… But now, flu has begun to circulate once again.
School is in session, and more Americans are traveling again. School children have long been known to act as effective carriers of flu and other viruses. Their hygiene is often less than stellar, and children shed higher viral loads than adults. Now that kids are back in school, they will be sharing illnesses and bringing those conditions home to their families.
And of course, many Americans have resumed travel in the wake of Covid restrictions being lifted. Many are traveling to international locations where flu is already running rampant, and returning home to spread the viruses earlier in the season.
Normal predictive measures are askew. In most years, experts examine countries in the Southern hemisphere in order to predict the severity of the upcoming flu in the Northern hemisphere. In fact, knowledge of specific strains that are circulating in Australia and Southern Asia help to determine the makeup of flu vaccines. But with Covid measures in those countries still heavily restricting the spread of flu, experts are having a hard time identifying potentially virulent strains of flu or predicting rates of transmission here this winter.
While it’s difficult to predict anything for certain, many experts do fear that this winter will bring an especially difficult cold and flu season. Talk to your doctor about preventive measures that you can take, to keep your immune system healthy and fight off common illnesses.