San Diego-area medical professionals are expressing concerns for the upcoming flu season as data shows the county's cases for influenza are already higher compared to last year's.
As of Oct. 2, San Diego County reported 167 influenza cases in the region for the 2021-2022 flu season, which is significantly higher than the five cases that were reported around this time last year. That increase is prompting health care experts to encourage the public to get their flu shots as early as possible.
“CDC is predicting that we may have uptick in not only flu infections, and that's the influenza and influenza B viruses, but also a possibly surge in hospitalizations related to that,” University of San Diego Director of Nursing Informatics Dr. Jonathan Mack said.
The low number of flu cases for this time last year was contributed by mask mandates that were put in place by the county for local businesses. The three-year average number of flu cases for early October is 102.
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Health experts believe there is a link behind why flu cases are affected by COVID-19.
“The benefit of the lockdown from COVID is, it slowed the transmission of the COVID virus," Dr. Mack said. "The benefit was that it also slowed a lot of other community-acquired infections such as the flu. The downside was we didn't see as many folks getting their vaccinations for flu as they do in previous years."
Some medical experts believe there could be a strain on the health care system if their fears come to fruition.
“If you think back to the 2019-2020 flu season in San Diego, we had over 20,000 cases of flu reported and 104 deaths. We didn't get overwhelmed because we're able to manage that. But if you add that on top of COVID, we could get out of hand very easily,” Scripps Health Chief Medical Officer of Acute Care Dr. Ghazala Sharieff said.
Some health care providers like Scripps are being proactive by having vaccination sites that are providing COVID-19 vaccinations and influenza vaccinations.
“With all of the data coming out and it shows that you can actually give vaccinations at the same time, which is why we decided to give the option of having the flu vaccination and the COVID booster at the same time,” Dr. Sharieff said.
Vaccination appointments at the Del Mar Fairgrounds by Scripps Health may be made through the MyScripps portal.