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How will COVID-19 impact the flu in Florida?

Fla. doctors ‘cautiously optimistic’ but warn co-infections possible
Posted at 4:39 PM, Oct 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-13 18:37:28-04

The flu season has officially started in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Now, add in an ongoing global health crisis and we’re all wondering just how the coronavirus pandemic will impact flu season in Florida this year.

“It’s a great question and something we are talking a lot about in the hospital,” said Dr. Nicole Iovine, an associate professor and Chief Epidemiologist at the University of Florida Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

Dr. Marissa Levine, a public health expert and professor at the University of South Florida, is also paying close attention to the season, which has already started slowly.

Both are cautiously optimistic this year’s flu season could be one for the record books, in a good way.

“I’d hate to predict and say definitively that’s going to happen but we have potential to have an insignificant season,” said Levine.

“It all depends on human behavior which is the big black box,” said Iovine.

With travel down, mask-wearing up and social distancing a way of life, these doctors say the same practices we’re taking to ward off COVID-19 will also, likely, lower our risk of catching the flu.

But more telling is what just happened during peak season on the other side of the world.

“If you look at the southern hemisphere for example, where they’ve already experienced winter. Places like Australia had not just a mild, but an absent flu season,” explained Levine.

Still, these doctors warn we all have reason to remain concerned about the flu season which peaks in January.

“We see respiratory co-infections all the time. There’s no reason we can’t see COVID and influenza affect a person at the same time and that will not be a good situation,” said Iovine.

Both doctors advise individuals to wear their mask, keep socially distancing practices in place and get a flu shot.

“It is extremely worrisome. This is unprecedented times so we are very, very concerned about the combination of flu and the coronavirus,” said Iovine.