LANSING, Mich. — Flu season is fast approaching and local health officials are strongly encouraging residents to get their flu shots to avoid a 'twindemic.'
The combination of COVID-19 and a rough flu season could be catastrophic.
“A twindemic would be just two viruses or two different infectious agents simultaneously occurring at the same time that get to a certain level that overwhelms a system," said Dr. Paul Entler, who serves as Sparrow Health's vice president of quality and performance.
Entler said that Michigan is on a slight downward trend from the latest surge of COVID-19 cases but hospitals are still near capacity.
"What we're seeing, in addition in our hospital has been fairly much at capacity and is even outside of COVID," he said. "I believe patients may have been putting off well, care and different things from last year when there were the lockdowns and we're really seeing patients that are quite ill outside of COVID coming into the hospital in our critical care units as well.”
Last year, the U.S saw a historically low prevalence of flu cases thanks to COVID measures.
“The COVID preventative factors that we put in masking, hand-washing, social distancing, restaurants were closed, schools were closed. So all of those had an impact on the historically low flu season that we would typically see," he said.
But this year those factors are different: Schools and restaurants are open and other methods like mask wearing and social distancing are less stringent.
“With COVID and then if we had a flu pandemic as well, that would be potentially catastrophic for our health system, not just ours in terms of being able to handle the volume because you would have both covered influenza plus all the other illnesses that we typically see that come to the hospital," Dr. Entler said.
Entler explained that it's hard to predict just how tough a flu season is going to be, but modeling shows that we could be in for a higher than average flu season.
“So it really is critical this year more than any other year to get vaccinated," he said.
Flu shots are available, free of charge, at many local pharmacies.
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