Is Flu the Next Pandemic? - Episode 17

Current Influenza and COVID-19 Infection Rates

Dr George Loukatos illuminates influenza vaccination rates and prevalence of influenza cases for the current flu season compared to previous years as well as the current status of COVID-19 in the US.

George Loukatos, MD: The 2021-2022 flu season has been slow thus far. We’re starting to see a slight uptick in flu cases, which is late in the season. Typically, flu season will start somewhere around January or February. We’re in mid-March and now starting to see a slight uptick in cases, but nothing like a normal flu season. It’s pretty similar to last year. Last year, we had a light flu season, and we thought that with the lifting of a lot of the social distancing and mask mandates and such that we might have a more severe flu season this season, but thus far, it’s been minimal to minor. We were a bit worried about that because our vaccination rates have been low this year. They were very low last year. This year our vaccination rates have been lower than if you would compare them to the 2018-2019 season. Despite that lower vaccination rate, which I believe is a national trend, we have had a handful of cases a week of flu.

Right now we seem to be in a valley as far as the peaks and valleys of COVID-19 spikes have gone. We here on the Gulf Coast are having low numbers, which if you contrast that to even a month and a half ago, we were still maintaining fairly high percentages. Two months ago we were running, on tests that we run on a daily basis, about a 50% positive rate, and just as quickly as the Omicron variant spike started, it seems to have disappeared. That trend has happened nationally. It seems the spikes are happening around the country, they’re lasting a couple of months and then coming down, and as a nation, the cases are coming down. We’re seeing some of the lifting of the mandates, so it seems like things have relaxed. I don’t know of any major strains of interest right now that we’re concerned about, although there has been some literature suggesting there may be another spike in cases coming. We’re taking it one day at a time at this point because we’ve learned over the last 2 years that this thing has been impossible to predict, when it’s going to hit, during what season and how severe it’s going to be.

Transcript Edited for Clarity