NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Flu and COVID cases continue to rise causing concern of a “twindemic” for local doctors.
New data shows Tennessee is near the top of the list for flu activity, before the peek season begins. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows flu activity increasing, along with hospitalizations.
“The flu is waking up around the country and it is here in Nashville, also and we are starting to see cases [that need] to be hospitalized,” Dr. William Schaffner with Vanderbilt Medical Center told News 2.
After an unusually low flu season in 2020, the lowest on record, the virus is making a comeback.
“I think we are on track for at least a mild if not a moderate flu season,” said Dr. Schaffner.
Tennessee is one of seven states with a ‘high’ or ‘very high’ level of flu activity, according to the CDC. The flu surge comes as the omicron variant of coronavirus is spreading across the state, a concern for Dr. Schaffner.
“Influenza like COVID spreads when people get together and spend a lot of time with each other indoors and of course that’s been happening over Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season, so we anticipate going into the new year we will have COVID, but we will also have influenza and I hope that we don’t have what we have been concerned about, a “twindemic,” the both of them hitting at the same time. That would really stretch our healthcare system and of course make very many people ill.”
Walgreens reports flu activity is 335% higher nationwide this year compared to last.
Two pediatric deaths have been reported this year associated with the flu, according to the CDC. Much like COVID, the flu targets our most vulnerable.
“Influenza like COVID hits older people and people with underlying illnesses most severely and it can put them in the hospital with literally life threatening disease. With COVID out there, omicron spreading widely along with flu starting up the two of them could conspire to really stress all of our healthcare systems. Not only here, but across the country. It’s not too late to get vaccinated against influenza,” said Schaffner.
Establishing the difference in symptoms between COVID and the flu can be difficult. That’s why Dr. Schaffner says it’s important to test for both if you have symptoms. He also encourages both vaccines.
The peek flu season is February into March.