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Science, Health, Tech

Flu season may not be as mild this year

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Delaware Public Media
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Flu season is back in Delaware, and public health officials aren’t expecting another mild season like a year ago.

 

Another year, another flu season in the First State. But while last year’s flu season was abnormally mild due to coronavirus precautions, this year may be different.

 

Delaware Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay says this season could be unpredictable, like many flu seasons, as we don’t know how the current restrictions, or lack thereof, will play a role in spreading the flu virus.

 

Rattay says another concern is an outbreak of the flu combined with the spread of the Delta variant.

 

“So all of our hospitals are really stretched very thin,” said Rattay. “And every flu season strains our hospitals, so that really is our biggest concern about flu season this year is protecting our hospitals.”

 

Rattay adds hospitals are also seeing an influx of patients who may have had their elective surgeries put on hold amid the pandemic, and now patients need to start getting those done.

 

DPH recommends Delawareans get their flu vaccine to help prevent the spread, and ensure even if they do get sick, they won’t end up in the hospital.

 

“Now is the best time if you haven’t already since we don’t know when influenza is going to hit Delaware,” Rattay said. “We want as many people to have their immune system ready as possible.”

 

Rattay is confident COVID-19 vaccine disinformation won’t turn away too many people from getting their flu shot, pointing out that flu vaccines have been in use for decades making them more trustworthy in the public eye.

 

Rattay adds messaging around flu season may also change permanently, with more focus on encouraging the use of masks when sick. 

 

She says the significant decrease in flu cases last winter shows the effectiveness of masks — and masks have been used to combat the flu in many Asian countries long before the COVID pandemic.

 

And Rattay notes people can also get their flu shot and COVID vaccine at the same time, whether they’re getting their first dose, or a booster shot.

 

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.