How Flu Season is Affected by the Pandemic

Alongside Halloween and Thanksgiving comes another familiar event: the annual flu season. Generally lasting from late fall to early spring, flu season is regarded as a common occurrence in America.  However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a growing concern among health officials that this year’s flu season could be worse than usual.

During last year’s flu season (2020-2021), the number of flu cases remained extremely low thanks to Covid-19 safety protocols such as mask mandates and social distancing guidelines. It was reported that the number of flu-related deaths decreased by 95% nationwide, and in North Carolina there were only seven flu-related deaths. The number of emergency doctor visits for flu-like symptoms also accounted for merely one to two percent of all doctors visits in North Carolina, which is lower than the percentage for the previous two flu seasons. 

Yet the lack of flu cases last year is the primary reason why health officials are concerned for this year’s flu season. The low number of cases, combined with pandemic protocols, meant that most Americans were not exposed to the flu and had no chance to build any immunity to it. This means that, as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, there could be a surge of flu cases in the next couple of months.

However, it is currently too early to tell if that hypothesis is accurate. As of October 29th, 2021, data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that each state has reported a minimal to moderate number of flu cases, but these numbers could increase as the 2021-2022 flu season progresses. For now, the best thing people can do is receive their flu vaccines and continue to make smart and sanitary choices. Ms. Vogt, a registered nurse who is also Apex High’s health science teacher, encourages students to look out for any symptoms of the flu, which can include fever, body aches, headaches, and other symptoms that resemble a common cold. She also stresses the importance of staying home if you feel sick, especially if you have a temperature of over 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit. 

“And that doesn’t mean you’ve got a fever, and then you take some Tylenol, and then you don’t have a fever anymore so you’re ok to come to school” Ms. Vogt added. “It means to be a normal body temperature, which should be lower than 100.6 [degrees], without any fever-reducing medication.”

Ms. Vogt also recommends washing your hands with soap and water and avoiding touching your face, although the pandemic has helped normalize these habits over the past year. In fact, Ms. Vogt mentioned that wearing a mask not only helps limit the spread of Covid-19 and the flu, but it also limits people from touching their faces often.

While this year’s flu season may be more unpredictable than previous years, students and staff can help keep flu cases under control by practicing good personal hygiene, staying home when they feel sick, and encouraging others to do the same.

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