Could we face a ‘twindemic’ of COVID and the flu? St. Louis doctor weighs in

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Infectious disease specialists are worried about a possible “twindemic,” a surge in COVID and influenza cases, as families begin to gather for Thanksgiving.

Officials at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital report low but increasing numbers of influenza in children and adults in the St. Louis area.

“Everyone in the hospitals we live in fear, from day-to-day, that we’re going to have a spike again of COVID at the same time we have a spike of influenza, and we again are running out of health care resources. That’s a risk,” said Dr. Marya Strand, chief medical officer at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.

Strand said a good indicator of how severe the flu season might be this year will be whether families gather closer together throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“As people start to relax with wearing their masks and start exposing others a little more frequently, I think we expect to see influenza increasing,” said Strand.

Doctors said the flu spreads essentially the same way as COVID, from person to person. So, the COVID precautions that kept flu numbers very low last year should continue through this flu season, which usually peaks in December or January.

“We’ve had months upon months of the pandemic with people dying, and it’s within our power as a community to help keep that at a minimum,” said Strand.

He said the most effective way to avoid a “twindemic” is for everyone to get a flu shot and the COVID vaccine. Strand is also encouraging people to keep social distancing and wearing face masks.

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