WVU epidemiologist wary of flu season

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Some health experts are predicting the worst flu season in five years. Influenza is certainly unpredictable, but health experts monitor the flu season in Australia and they report the worst flu season in five years there.

WVU Health System Chief Epidemiologist, Dr. Michael Stevens cautions that coronavirus protocols could set the stage for a similar outbreak on this side of the world.

“We’ve lost a little bit of that partial population immunity we had to the flu,” Dr. Stevens said. “There’s the potential we could have a bad flu season and I think that’s what is making a lot of people in public health nervous.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control predicts a coronavirus peak in December coinciding with flu season. That would be the first time both viruses have been a threat to the population at the same since the pandemic.

“It’s hard to say- is it probable, versus will we see a mild season again? Dr. Stevens asked. ” I would err on the side of we’ll probably see more activity than we’ve seen in the last few years.”

The CDC recommends both the flu and coronavirus vaccines this year. Dr. Stevens said getting the flu vaccine in advance of flu season peak will ensure maximum effectiveness.

“If people go out and get it now people they will be ready for when we might see a spike in activity as the weather gets colder and people are clustered indoors,” Dr. Stevens said.

To formulate the current vaccine, researchers review effectiveness of the previous year’s version, what viruses are currently spreading and the extent of virus spread. Dr. Stevens believes this vaccine will be effective and encourages people to get the protection provided by the shot.

“We’ve done a pretty good job of predicting what’s going to be in this year’s vaccine and what’s going to work the best,” Dr. Stevens said. “So, get vaccinated.”