Bay Area health experts warn of upcoming flu season, urge public to use mitigation techniques and get vaccinated


SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — New concerns from health experts are emerging this winter as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations remain at the forefront of concern. There are fears that the flu will make a brutal return.

“I can tell you as an emergency physician and healthcare professional that we are scared of flu season,” said Dr. Laleh Gharahbaghian, director of process improvement for Stanford’s Adult Emergency Department. . “We anticipate a much higher volume of patients entering our emergency departments. There will be an increase in cases for these vulnerable populations, which also include the elderly population and the very young. There will be an increase in hospitalizations and an increase in deaths.

In the United States, during the flu season between September 28, 2020 and May 22, 2021, the CDC reported that of 818,939 respiratory specimens tested by clinical laboratories, 1,675 tested positive for an influenza virus, i.e. 0.2%

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One of the main possibilities they attribute to improvements is COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing masks, reducing travel and social distancing.

But these mitigation measures are not the same this year.

“There are fewer masks, especially in schools, and some numbers as well,” Gharahbaghian said. “Social distancing has become a thing of the past for the vast majority of the nation’s population, and of course, in the Bay Area as well.”

UCSF professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says part of the reason health experts are particularly concerned this season is because of what happened in other parts of the world.

“We usually look at places that have winter before us like Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, and they’ve all seen higher numbers of cases than before. even the pandemic,” Chin-Hong said. “So I think we’re all worried for the right reasons, but we shouldn’t be scared because, again, we have these tools to protect ourselves.”

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Experts also encourage other mitigation measures.

“Wash your hands thoroughly, get your COVID and flu shots, and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, without washing your hands,” Gharahbaghian said, “Really, what COVID precautions have given us learned on how to avoid the spread of any virus is by doing very good hand hygiene and safety measures.”

Another top tip from the experts: stay informed.

“Make sure you know if the prevalence of flu or COVID or any other virus is rampant in your community,” Gharahbaghian said. “So that you can take the safety measures, precautions and decisions to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

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