TAMPA, Fla. — During the COVID pandemic, doctors say other infectious diseases weren’t much of an issue. That is changing now with three times the number of flu cases as there are COVID cases.
Dr. Christina Canody is a pediatrician with BayCare Medical Group.
“When we look at everybody of all ages about 1 in 4 patients being tested are positive for flu," she said. "But, if you look at cases of kids under the age of 18, that’s 1 in 3 that are coming in with illness symptoms. So those are significant numbers."
There is normally a flu peak around spring break. But Dr. Canody said the peak is still going strong, now into June.
A record number of travelers in the area may be a big reason for the uptick in cases.
“Starting from spring break, all the airports reported that they had record numbers through their gates that were higher than pre-pandemic numbers,” Canody said.
Pair those record number with mask mandates being dropped and other COVID restrictions lifted Dr. Canody said it’s a perfect storm leading to other infections, not just the flu.
“We are seeing very high rates of things like para influenza, RSV is also making a comeback in kids right now," she said. "We are also seeing really high rates of what we call human rhino/enterovirus. Which was at higher rates but is coming down a little bit now that flu is taking over."
Dr. Candoy said the influenza vaccination is effective in keeping flu patients out of the hospital.
She said it is safe to get both the flu shot and COVID shot at the same time.
“Obviously, we’ve seen so many mortalities as a result of COVID," Canody said. "But flu, in general, is still one of the largest causes of illness mortality among older adults and young children every year. So I don’t think that’s going to go away and vaccine is the best way to prevent that."
At Johns Hopkins All Children’s hospital, they’ve had more than 1200 children test positive for the flu, compared to 116 COVID cases.
Most of those children did not have to be hospitalized. Experts say immunity does wane as time passes after getting vaccinated.
But they don’t recommend another booster in the same season.
The formula for the vaccine expires by June 30.