CLEVELAND (WJW) – It’s dubbed the ‘Twindemic,’ a catchy name for the flu season and COVID-19 combined.
This year, however, there’s a new concern related to the public’s fatigue surrounding health precautions that could help keep the flu at bay.
“I certainly understand how people could be suffering from vaccine fatigue, but we can’t let down our guard and we can’t let these viruses into our community,” said Dr. Donald Ford, department chair of family medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
With COVID and flu season set to collide once again, experts say it’s too early to tell how intense flu season could become.
“It depends, in part, on measures we’re using for COVID, if we will continue to use them during the flu season,” said Richard Stacklin, a data analyst for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. “If people are using masks effectively, maintaining social distance, especially indoors.”
Stacklin said last flu season, fear of COVID combined with mandatory mask policies helped reduce flu cases to some of the lowest in years. Those measures, in addition to millions of people getting a flu vaccine, led to better protection for more people.
“It was close to 200 million people in America, so I hope that people continue to go out there and get the vaccine,” said Stacklin. “We know that last flu season we had six hospitalizations due to flu. The previous five-year average was 1,630 and just two years ago we had over 2,000 people hospitalized due to flu.”
Although cases were dramatically reduced in Cuyahoga County last flu season, expects warn now is not the time to relax public health measures like frequent hand washing and wearing a mask indoors.
“People are definitely letting their guard down in terms of wearing masks in public,” said Dr. Ford.
He encouraged patients to get their flu shot and said there is no need to worry about taking the COVID vaccine at the same time.
“When the vaccines first came out against COVID, we were concerned. We didn’t know if there were going to be interactions [with the flu shot]. That’s been tested and found to be completely safe,” said Dr. Ford. “We tell everybody if you want to save a trip, come on and get your flu shot and get your COVID shot.”