Minnesota is heading into a colder season, and any year physicians would be reminding people to get flu shots. But health experts are saying it a little louder this year because there is concern about a “twindemic” or even a “tridemic” with COVID still causing many people to get very ill.
Dr. David Hilden of Hennepin Healthcare and host of WCCO’s “Healthy Matters” says that there is good reason for the messaging on flu this year.
“There is a concern about flu,” Hilden told Adam Carter on the WCCO Morning News. “Most of us will remember or maybe it didn't across our minds, we barely had flu last year. It was a handful of cases, but it was basically a non-event and that is likely because one, it was a mild flu season to begin with. But two, we weren't together. We were social distancing and we were masking.”
The lack of a flu season in the winter of 2020-21 could actually make things worse this year. Hilden says that lack of exposure is actually a bad thing for immunity.
“This year the concern is that the flu is going to come back with a little bit more force,” Hilden explains. “Our bodies aren't used to the flu. It's been a couple of years since most of us have been exposed to it and we were wearing masks and all that. So now that people are not wearing their masks and flu is coming back, or at least the season is coming back, it's possible that people could get both COVID and flu.”
Hilden says while Minnesota hospitals are not overrun with COVID patients at this time. However, he says there has been enough of a spike locally in cases that the added COVID issues along with regular medical care has hospitals on the brink of being “overrun in general.”
Those COVID cases are also trending younger and more severe according to Hilden. Those trends tied to the upcoming flu season, and even a third viral infection called RSV has doctors concerned about children’s health.
“There's even a third thing for kids,” says Dr. Hilden. “It's a really rough year on RSV which is a viral infection of the lungs for kids and even adults. Get your flu vaccine. That is an easy thing to do that that can protect you and your family.
“RSV It stands for respiratory syncytial virus,” Hilden said. “It's been present for ages and it's especially common in kids, little kids, and babies even, and they get a rough respiratory illness. There is no vaccine for that. There's no specific treatment for it. So children need to be cared for, sometimes in hospitals, which can be serious. There's nothing, other than the usual things, that we tell people if your kid’s not feeling well. Seek help, give them plenty of fluids and now our as we can even be in adults as well.”
Since RSV is viral, there is no vaccine or significant treatment for it. Most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two but Hilden says it still can require treatment.
Hilden said that in addition to seeking flu and definitely COVID vaccines, you should still take the usual precautions to prevent the spread of all of these illnesses.
“Washing of your hands, don't sneeze on other people, and certainly wear your masks if you're sneezing, are coughing or not feeling well,” Hilden says. “Or do what most of us do, wear your masks all the time if you're in public.”