The United States may not see a “double whammy” this fall of both the coronavirus and influenza, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases pointed to the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s late winter.
Australia has experienced an almost non-existent flu season, Fauci said in an interview with radio station WTOP. The country has had the fewest number of flu cases in memory, he said.
Fauci said he doesn’t want Americans to get complacent, and he urged people to get a flu shot, wear masks, avoid crowds, keep physically distanced and wash their hands frequently.
“It is entirely possible that, despite the fear that we were going to have a double whammy, namely flu season superimposed upon a continuation of Covid-19, that may not be the case,” Fauci said.
While it’s impossible to say what’s going to happen when flu season gets underway in the US this fall and winter, a new study suggests that measures like social distancing, teleworking and school closures that slow the spread of the novel coronavirus could also lead to a mild flu season this year.
“If extensive community mitigation measures continue throughout the fall, influenza activity in the United States might remain low and the season might be blunted or delayed,” the researchers wrote in the study, published Thursday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Flu virus circulation declined dramatically within two weeks after US officials declared a national emergency in mid-March, researchers said. They also noted that the summer circulation of the flu is “currently at historical lows.”
This will be the most important flu season in the country’s history, said US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.
A surge in flu and Covid-19 cases at once could overwhelm health care system capacity, Adams said at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
Adams said the flu season will provide an opportunity to instill vaccine education and confidence in communities.
“We need to understand that, number one, the biggest predictor of who’s going to get the Covid vaccine is going to be, I think, who gets the flu vaccine,” Adams said. “It’s an opportunity to prime the pump and have that conversation.”
Adams said that flu symptoms are similar to Covid-19 symptoms, making it hard to tell the two apart.