Will This Year’s Seasonal Influenza Overtake Coronavirus?

Influenza and SARS-CoV-2 clinical symptoms can overlap
washing hands with clean water

‘The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic may become more difficult as we enter the fall and winter flu season,’ sate Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

‘Each year influenza causes a surge in hospitalizations, and in combination with COVID-19, is a serious concern for healthcare systems across the USA,’ said Dr. Collins in a September 9, 2020 testimony.

‘In addition to the expected surge in patient numbers, the clinical symptoms for influenza and SARS-CoV-2 can overlap, and an increase in influenza infections will require testing for SARS-CoV-2 in order to determine if the patient has COVID-19 or influenza.’ 

Seasonal influenza co-circulation with SARS-CoV-2 has already been observed in the Southern hemisphere. 

An increase in the vaccination rate for influenza will help to safeguard our healthcare systems against this surge, by reducing flu morbidity, to allow for COVID-19 surge capacity in hospitals, and reducing the number of sick individuals presenting to outpatient clinics. 

During the 2018- 2019 fall and winter, the influenza vaccination rate for adults was 45.3 percent. It is imperative that we increase this vaccination rate to protect our healthcare systems. 

Lastly, it is important to remind the public that childhood vaccinations are another way we can protect our communities and healthcare systems from avoidable illnesses and deaths.

The NIH is the world’s largest biomedical research funder, but we are also America’s research engine. Right now, our funded scientists are working around the clock to find the best ways to diagnose, prevent, and treat COVID-19. We won’t rest until this job is done,’ concluded Dr. Collins testimony.

When children were admitted to a hospital for COVID-19, they had no higher chance of serious complications than other children admitted with seasonal influenza, according to a retrospective study published by JAMA on September 8, 2020.

More patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had underlying medical conditions and reported fever, diarrhea or vomiting, headache, body ache or myalgia, or chest pain.

During the 2019-2020 flu season in the USA, there have been 188 pediatric fatalities related to influenza viruses reported to the U.S. CDC, as of September 4, 2020.

Furthermore, regarding new innovative diagnostics, North Carolina based LabCorp announced on September 8, 2020, the launch of the first testing method to simultaneously detect COVID-19, influenza A / B, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

This single-panel test, which detects multiple types of infections, can help doctors diagnose patients and make decisions about treatment options.

The most common flu shot for the 2020-2021 influenza season in the Northern Hemisphere are quadrivalent vaccines that protect people against 4 viruses; influenza A (H1N1) virus, influenza A (H3N2) virus, and 2 influenza B viruses.

Most people over 6 months of age are encouraged to get vaccinated every flu season since influenza infections can create severe consequences.

An updated list of U.S. FDA authorized flu vaccines can be found at this link.

PrecisionVaccinations published research-based news focused on influenza and the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic.