Flu season expected to be worse this year

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 6:01 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A warning from doctors as we enter flu season. Experts are predicting this flu season will be worse than the last, and they’re urging people to get the flu shot.

The COVID-19 pandemic made people wash their hands more, wear a mask and stay socially distanced. But, it also prevented the general population from building immunity against the flu.

Paul Entler, from Sparrow Health System, said, “A lot of people would’ve been exposed to the flu and develop natural immunity. Because we didn’t have that ... a lot of that natural immunity didn’t develop.”

There were only 2,000 reported cases of influenza nationwide last season. In comparison, the year prior saw 39,000,000 cases reported. If the numbers bounce back to pre-pandemic levels our already-struggling hospitals could be overwhelmed.

Entler said, “So if we had another wave of COVID, we’re seeing a lot of quite ill patients that are non-COVID related and with the flu certainly it would put us at risk of being over capacity.”

The flu is similar to COVID-19 in that it spreads through droplets, which is why mask-wearing is important. Their symptoms are also similar.

“They really overlap in terms of symptoms so muscle aches, fever, cough, sore throat,” Entler said. “So, the one thing that’s different is it might take longer for COVID symptoms to show, but still infective. The flu you’re going to know pretty quick.”

As health experts brace for the rise in cases they encourage most people to get the flu shot.

“If we were predicting 10 or 20 percent higher than average flu season we would need to counteract that with others that maybe didn’t get the flu vaccine to seriously consider it this year,” Entler said. “It’s not just ‘protect yourself’ it’s to protect others.”

In the 2019-2020 flu season 400,000 people were hospitalized with influenza. 22,000 died from it.

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