COLUMBUS, Ohio (NewsNation Now) — Medical experts at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have looked at data from the Southern Hemisphere to predict how the flu season will be in the United States.
Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser is the Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He says U.S. citizens may see a remarkable flu season in which the number of cases in the United States is extremely low.
The doctor points to the Southern Hemisphere, where he said a number of countries have recorded 60-70 percent fewer cases than their historical average.
Dr. Gonsenhauser explains it is possible that the social distancing measures and widespread closures of businesses because of COVID-19 will reduce the spread of the flu. However, he’s worried that if restrictions ease, this silver lining may not last.
“The same things that have led them to have a remarkably low number of flu cases this year will be effective here at home as well. Those are things like masking in public, social distancing and all the same things we’ve been talking about since the beginning of COVID,” said Gonsenhauser.
He says even though he predicts a less active flu season it is still critical that people get a flu shot. Many pharmacies and doctors’ offices are already offering those.
Walgreen’s pharmacist Nancy Salman explained that people should at least protect themselves against a disease that is preventable; like the flu.
“We have seen flu pandemics hit but never together as well with another flu that has no vaccine, ” said Salman.
Some health officials are worried people will opt out of this year’s flu vaccine during the pandemic, which could mean widespread outbreaks.
The University of Chicago Medical Center infectious disease specialist Dr. Allison Bartlett says there is still a lot of uncertainty on how the flu season could be this year.
“We don’t know a lot yet how much more severe someone having the infections at the same time is,” said Dr. Bartlett.
She says that COVID-19 and the seasonal flu can individually cause a significant strain on healthcare resources with both infections hitting populations at the same time. Dr. Bartlett says if now is the only time you can get your flu shot, earlier is better than never.
“We may be in a position like we were talking about in the spring where we would run out of ventilators and have PPE shortages which keep our healthcare workers safe. Health officials say your best bet is to get a flu vaccine and at least try to protect yourself against one of the illnesses,” said Bartlett.
Another recommendation from medical professionals is to contact your local pharmacy or doctor’s office to schedule a time to get your shot and ensure social distancing is practiced.