Why this might be a nasty flu season in California

After two perilous winters of surging COVID-19, it’s the final information you wish to hear — this yr’s flu season is hitting early, and it might be the worst in a few years. 

Flu hospitalizations are ramping up this yr sooner than they’ve in a decade, in response to the newest federal well being knowledge. That aligns with predictors, together with knowledge from the Southern Hemisphere, which frequently function a preview for the Northern Hemisphere’s flu season. 

“We noticed a extreme influenza season in Australia throughout our summer time of 2022 (their winter) so this was a herald that our influenza season could worsen,” Dr. Monica Gandhi, a professor of medication and an infectious illnesses physician at UCSF, wrote in an electronic mail.  

One of many greatest drivers of flu exercise is probably going so-called “immunity debt,” in response to Gandhi. Fewer individuals than ordinary have been uncovered to the flu over the past two years, thanks to highschool closures and masking. However this winter is completely different, with individuals leaving their masks at house and gathering indoors extra freely, resulting in wider unfold. Which means immune techniques aren’t as well-primed to clear the virus as they’re in a typical yr, resulting in extra infections that trigger severe sickness, or at the very least stick round lengthy sufficient to be detected.

About 7.9% of California flu checks got here again constructive on Oct. 23, in comparison with a 0.3% positivity price on the identical time final yr, in response to state knowledge. The general incidence price is comparatively low within the Bay Space and better within the southern a part of the state, stated Stanford infectious illnesses skilled Dr. Abraar Karan, however “this might change shortly.” 

There are additionally some indications that fewer individuals are getting flu pictures this yr, additional miserable inhabitants immunity. Public well being officers are recommending that everybody six months and older get the flu shot as quickly as potential. All three consultants who spoke with SFGATE stated that it’s completely protected to get flu and COVID vaccines concurrently.

Medical consultants warn of a extreme flu season forward this winter. 

About 7.9% of California flu tests came back positive on Oct. 23, compared to a 0.3% positivity rate at the same time last year, according to state data.

About 7.9% of California flu checks got here again constructive on Oct. 23, in comparison with a 0.3% positivity price on the identical time final yr, in response to state knowledge.

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How effectively the vaccine works for every particular person “is determined by which flu sort you get contaminated with,” in response to UCSF infectious illnesses skilled Dr. Peter Chin-Hong. Flu vaccines are produced months upfront, based mostly on infections through the Southern Hemisphere’s flu season.

Whereas it stays unknown how efficient this yr’s flu vaccine shall be in opposition to the strains that find yourself circulating most generally right here, the predominant pressure within the U.S. proper now could be H3N2, one among 4 strains included on this season’s shot. Excessive charges of H3N2 an infection have traditionally pushed extra extreme flu seasons, “notably for older adults and younger kids,” the CDC stated in a press launch.

Regardless of indicators of a comparatively quiet COVID winter, consultants are nervous concerning the potential of a foul flu season combining with the residual results of the pandemic to additional pressure America’s already-stressed well being care system.

“350 individuals are nonetheless dying per day within the US from COVID – and that quantity is probably going going to extend as COVID circumstances enhance locally,” Chin-Hong stated.

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