Doctors warn of increasing flu cases; expect big spike after holidays

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Posted at 7:50 AM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 08:01:00-05

TAMPA, Fla. — “This is the time of year it really starts ramping up,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Associate Profess for the University of South Florida College of Public Health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that flu cases are climbing. Experts say this could be an indication we may be in for a few rough weeks and months ahead.

“We don’t want to have like a dual epidemic is what we call it. Where we actually have two different diseases running in parallel,” said Roberts.

With the omicron COVID-19 variant spreading, experts say you don’t want to have to deal with the flu on top of it.

“Biggest issue with flu is it takes the same resources as COVID does so flu can cause pneumonia, pneumonia can result in you needing to be ventilated. You’re going to need ICUs and making and PPEs and all of these things that are already taxed because of COVID,” said Roberts.

Doctors fear the combination of the highly contagious omicron variant and a spike in flu cases could overwhelm our hospitals.

If you’ve had a COVID-19 infection in the past, experts say you may want to take some extra precautions.

“We’re also noting that people who have had COVID may actually be more susceptible for severe flu. We’re seeing cases of co-infections that can be very, very deadly,” said Roberts.

While flu activity is unpredictable, experts say a surge is very likely.

The CDC reports many flu cases were detected in people ages 5-24. They’ve also seen an increase in flu activity detected among college students.

Officials are seeing that locally too, reporting issues with the flu at the University of South Florida.

“We are seeing an increase in flu and actually greater numbers than we saw in 2019. So this seems to be perhaps a little more active flu season,” said Dr. Donna Petersen, Dean of the College of Public Health at USF.

“I think the hardest thing about preventing those diseases is avoiding crowds, especially at the holiday," said Roberts.

To limit spread this season, doctors say you should assess your own risks.

“If you’re a high-risk individual, you know you haven’t been vaccinated for whatever reason, you don’t want to put yourself at risk by going to the outlet malls and places like that which we know right now are going to be extremely, extremely busy,” said Roberts.

Experts also encourage people to take precautions and protect their loved ones.

“If you know at Christmas time you’re going to see your grandmother in the nursing home then take all precautions,” said Roberts.

Doctors want to remind the community that the flu is vaccine-preventable, especially at avoiding severe flu. It’s not too late to get vaccinated.